I recoiled with horror when I saw the picture on the front page of The Argus on September 16. A donkey was spray-painted by vandals to look like a zebra.

I am convinced that the measure of a truly civilised society is the degree of care, compassion and respect shown for our fellow creatures.

Sadly, in too many countries, a thin veneer of civilised behaviour barely covers a culture of contempt towards animal welfare.

Bull fighting in Spain, dancing bears in Turkey and the routine ill-treatment of donkeys and camels in some Middle Eastern countries are just three examples among many. Saying this, the recent banning of bull fights in Catalonia is a significant victory for animal welfare groups.

In comparison we, as a self-professed nation of animal lovers, may feel smug and superior, but not when random acts of cruelty are regularly reported in the media. The unfortunate case of the donkeys reported in The Argus is the latest of many in our region.

On a national level, institutionalised ill treatment of animals persists in major events such as the Grand National, where horses are routinely whipped and die in a so-called sport. We also see this in circuses, where animals are even today performing to “entertain” us, and in factory farming where battery hens and other animals endure miserably confined lives for our benefit.

And all this seems perfectly acceptable in our society.

Civilised? I don’t think so.

With regard to those responsible for the ill-treatment of the donkeys, perhaps they should be spray-painted from head to toe in black and white stripes and paraded in a public place together, with a placard reading, “We did this to a defenceless donkey.”

This may seem like justice from the old days, and it’s not going to happen in these PC-“enlightened” times, but if it did it would undoubtedly be effective. It would make the offenders think about what they did, and give the general public a welcome opportunity to condemn their behaviour.

David Pritchard, Cross Road, Southwick