23 SEPTEMBER 1995, Page 31

Inveterate letter-writer

Sir: May I be allowed to reply to Michael Sissons' apoplectic attack upon myself and others (The wrongs of animal rights', 2 September)?

If he believes that the current interest in animal matters is a socialist conspiracy, how does he explain the recent behaviour of thousands of solid middle-class people who have spent months demonstrating in all weathers against live exports?

I published my first letters on animal rights in the Daily Telegraph in 1969 — a newspaper not usually regarded as an organ of international revolution.

The RSPCA was founded by dynamic social reformers such as Fowell Buxton and William Wilberforce, so Sissons is quite wrong to see its modern dynamism as aber- rant. Its concern with 'the welfare of pets' is a relatively recent development. Its main objectives originally were the welfare of farm animals, horses and animals in laboratories.

However, other than attributing to me a book which I do not recall having written, Sissons' silliest confusion is to attribute the invention of animal rights to Peter Singer. The phrase has, of course, been around for more than a hundred years and Singer's whole emphasis is upon not using the con- cept of rights. Such philosophical niceties seem to have passed Sissons by.

The danger for Conservatives in re- labelling animal issues as a socialist cause is that thousands of voters who feel that more should be done to protect animals will vote accordingly at the next election.

Richard D. Ryder

Hay House, Haytor, Devon