Q Should penalties for cruelty to animals be increased?
The proposed new penalties for animal cruelty are clearly a step in the right direction ('Big increase in penalties for cruelty to animals', April 7). What concerns me more, however, would be the reluctance of the courts to enforce them. Even under the current law, which allows for a maximum fine of $5,000 and a maximum jail sentence of six months, out of the 26 convictions that were secured between January 2004 and September last year, only two people were jailed, each for less than one month, and the others were fined an average of only $1,292. It seems that primarily it's not the law that is wrong but soft magistrates who don't hand down maximum fines and sentences.
Animals deserve protection from cruelty. Where humans choose to include animals in human society and in their families, animals deserve to be protected from human violence. Animal abusers should be brought to justice to ensure that the chain of abuse ends with that animal.
It is well recognised that those who are violent to animals are often violent to humans. If someone can hurt, torture and kill defenceless creatures for amusement or an ego trip, they are the type of person who has it in them to treat their fellow human beings in the same manner. The only difference is that they know they will be answerable in that instance. Is the transition from torturing a helpless cat to torturing a helpless baby all that great?
A maximum jail sentence of one year may still be too lenient. In Alabama, the minimum penalty for felony animal cruelty is a year and a day in prison, while the maximum sentence is a 10-year jail term and a US$5,000 fine. This law was known as the Gucci Bill, inspired by a dog named Gucci which was hanged from a tree and set on fire by teenagers.
It is regrettable that our legislators feel less strongly about corresponding animal cruelty cases in Hong Kong, such as Pan Pan, the dog abandoned at a rubbish dump in Yuen Long who was just a puppy when his legs were chopped off. A 'Pan Pan Bill' along the Alabama lines may be in order.
Paul Liang, Sai Wan Ho
Q Will you refuse to accept bags on No Plastic Bag Day?
While standing at a check-out in a Wellcome supermarket with my cloth bag in hand, I was amused by the sign that attempts to discourage the use of plastic bags: To conserve the environment ask 'Have you 'Bring your own bag'?'
Wellcome is to be congratulated for joining the campaign against plastic bags but might also consider joining the Workplace English Campaign.
On other matters...
I received a traffic ticket on April 7 at about 10.30pm. I was leaving the airport, heading towards Kowloon. I was driving in the fast lane at 110km/h. My focus was on not speeding. There were hardly any cars and I was pulled over by a motorcycle police officer because I was driving in the fast lane for an extended period and received a ticket because I was not passing another car.
My problem with this law lies on several levels. First, driving in the fast lane at the speed limit poses minimal danger. Second, I feel that cutting back and forth from the middle lane to the passing lane at night would pose more of a danger. Third, I have always thought the signs posted on the expressway were meant as a courtesy to other cars which wanted to exceed the speed limit.
This law makes sense as a courtesy but it doesn't make sense if it is punishable by a fine of $450. My advice to other drivers is to do the more dangerous thing and avoid driving straight on the 'passing' lane. It will save you money.
Name and address supplied
The finding of a long-term clinical study is bringing good news to chronic hepatitis B patients who may otherwise have to rely on life-long medication. The new treatment is promising and the patients may have a chance to get 'close to cure' status after a period of 48 weeks.
However, we discover the information provided in the article with the headline 'New hepatitis B drug may end lifelong treatments' is incomplete.
The article, on C4 on March 30, said: 'Some 83 per cent of patients who had peginterferon injections for 48 weeks achieved seroconversion, which means a strong immune reaction had developed one year after treatment ended.'
The complete message should be: 'The follow-up study targets at the Asian patients who have completed the 48-week treatment period on the new medicine peginterferon alpha 2a, and achieved HBeAg seroconversion at six months post-treatment. HBeAg stands for hepatitis B e-antigen. Seroconversion means that the body has developed a strong immune reaction so that the antigen disappears and the body has started to develop antibodies to fight the hepatitis B virus.
'Result - of those patients who have completed the treatment period and have maintained HBeAg seroconversion at six months post-treatment, 83 per cent of them can maintain their seroconversion at 12 months post-treatment ...'
Your article inflated the result of the clinical study. As medical communities worldwide value accuracy of clinical studies, such inflation will put George Lau Ka-kit, leader of the clinical study representing research from the University of Hong Kong, into a situation where his professionalism will be challenged. Can you please publish the correct information for the interest of the public and for Dr Lau's reputation.
Candy Wan, Grey Healthcare Group