FOR me, I think one of the most genuine aspects of Christmas is the idea of spreading peace, goodwill and joy to fellow human beings. This festive season, we can go one step further, and extend this peace and goodwill to include animals and the environment!

There has never been a better time to be vegan or vegetarian, or even just to eat more plant-based foods, with numerous delicious vegan options available at most supermarkets and restaurants. Therefore, it shouldn’t feel like a big deprivation to substitute some delicious plant-based options for turkey and chicken over the festive period.

READ MORE: 'Ground-breaking' Covid treatments to be offered to Scots from January

Turkeys experience serious cruelty on factory farms. One shocking fact is that on some turkey farms they have the end of their sensitive, nerve-filled beak cut off when they are just one day old. They are reared to grow at least three times their normal size in overcrowded factory farms, and as a result suffer from severe health issues and pain.

As if the animal cruelty wasn’t bad enough in factory farms, there are also the environmental consequences to consider. Greenpeace has done investigations which have shown that the soya used to feed factory-farmed animals, such as chicken and turkey, is sourced from soya farms on the site of Amazonian rainforest, cut down to grow animal soya feed. For example, if you buy a chicken from some of the major supermarkets, not only will the chicken have been so intensively reared that it suffers from pain and lameness, but the likelihood is that the soya used to feed the chickens came from deforested Amazonian land!

WATCH: Locals baffled as emu seen strolling through Scots town

The increased greenhouse gas emissions from intensive animal agriculture are well known. Animal welfare charities such as Open Cages and the Humane League UK have brought to the public attention the suffering of animals on factory farms this year. This Christmas, we can spread Christmas cheer to animals and the environment, by eating more plant-based foods, and by leaving animals off our plates. The true spirit of Christmas is about peace and goodwill, and what better way to go that extra mile, that to extend it to animals and the environment as well!

Leon Fields

ALAN Crocket makes some good points in his Long Letter (Dec 17), however when do we say we have a mandate to either hold a referendum or to start negotiating our withdrawal from the Union?

The independence-supporting parties won the General Election in May, and that was on a mandate for independence. The independence-supporting SNP have, if my memory serves me right, won the last seven elections in Scotland so how many elections do we have to win before or wishes are recognised? I don’t think there is any other party that have won as many straight elections in a democracy and not had the will of the electorate implemented.

READ MORE: Boost for SNP in Westminster poll as Tory and Labour support dips

We are supposed to be in a voluntary union according to Westminster. That means that the democratically elected members can set in motion negotiations for either leaving the Union or to amend the Treaty of Union 1707 at anytime of their choosing, and clearly we aren’t! Westminster or the English or the London institutions have no say in the matter and if Westminster doesn’t want to negotiate, then so be it. They are not compelled to save their precious Union and we don’t have to save it for them either. If that’s the situation we find ourselves in, then the Scottish Government can set up the institutions it needs to run an independent country and we then give notice to Westminster of an official leaving date.

Strategically we have two ways to fight the independence battle: defensively or by attack. We have been stuck in a defensive mode since the SNP became an electable party of government. That is fine for the government but what are we defending here? We need to change tactics and go on the attack if we want to win and it has always been the case that the best form of defence is to attack. What we need is a strategy for winning, not for defending the status quo.

READ MORE: Glasgow's Prestwick Airport taken off the market as Scottish Government stops sale

Presently, we give England oil, gas, electricity, and more. Our exports all go through their system. Where would England be if they lose all that and more over the next few years?

We aren’t going to get independence until we change our mindset. We have to stand up and tell Johnson’s pet poodle in the Scotland Office that he’s there to get us what we need, not what his English masters want. We need to show more conviction and fortitude if we want to get change

Alexander Potts

I READ with interest in Friday’s paper the letters from P Davidson and Alan Crocket, one on the SNP members’ vote to ditch the now infamous Growth Report and subsequent inaction, the other on the Scottish Government/SNP leadership adherence to a referendum as the only way to get independence.

Putting the two together, the only conclusion drawn is that the current SNP leadership/government is using the referendum idea as a means of ensuring indefinite delay to independence for reasons known only to themselves. Readers can draw their own conclusions.

Drew Reid