The depraved day of the Roman Circus is over -- or is it? The Weekend section Sept. 18, which announced hunting schedules and glorified this seasonal bloodletting, was a grim reminder that hunting, the modern counterpart of the Roman Circus, is alive and well in our society.

Hunting is nothing more than the socially acceptable outlet for man's most savage instincts. It cannot be defended as a means of subsistence because the cost of equipment, weapons, ammunition, transportation and the time involved in hunting would place the price of meat taken from the wild at over $25 per pound.

Those who participate in hunting as a form of recreation are not sportsmen but individuals with serious psychological defects. Hunting is frequently used as a masculine image ploy by those who need to strut in orange garb clutching a gun to proclaim their virility. These persons also have a propensity toward sadism inasmuch as it requires a degree of sadism to enjoy the death throes of a dying animal, not unlike Emperor Claudius, who enjoyed watching the variations of agony on the faces of dying gladiators and animals.

It is heartening to note that the tide is turning against hunting. Ironically, this was clearly demonstrated the day the hunting story was published when national public outcry forced postponement -- and I hope eventual cancellation -- of a bow-and-arrow deer hunt called for by the Navy at the U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Center in Silver Spring.

Gloria S. Cohen

A scientific survey, inspired entirely by The Post's Weekend cover, "Well, Shoot," was conducted this week in downtown Washington.

Sixty-seven to 92 percent of those surveyed believed a "white-tail" to be what ushers wear at weddings; a "grouse" their mother-in-law; a "blind" their idea of a bad date; "pepper" a condiment; and their favorite "game" the Redskins of a Monday night. Eighty-six percent felt that hunters should take the pins out of their Remingtons and go into therapy. One-hundred percent of those left standing after the 17th six-pack pledged to save woodland creatures from habitat destruction by never buying paper products, particularly The Post, again.

Now, Washington Post, we know you like to get a shot in when you can (at animal rights people, not deer), but how about an autumn cover the average "sport" can relate to? In tennis, only the umpire gets hurt.

Ingrid E. Newkirk

The writer is director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

I was surprised to learn that The Post is in the business of promoting the annual slaughter of doves, rabbits, snow geese and bear by giving us a Weekend "entertainment" cover story praising the glories of blood sports. This mad ritual, portrayed by your writers as "the season of fruition, a deeply satisfying pursuit for game," could more accurately be described as a terrifying and bloody waste of life.

Instead of showing people "how to rattle up a big buck with the antlers of one who fell for the same trick," we should be learning respect for the lives of other creatures. Rather than teach our children to "drop" geese, we might instead marvel together at these beautiful birds who mate for life and possess navigational skills far beyond our own comprehension.

When will we stop hearing the tired rationalization that hunting is needed to help the balance of nature and recognize this cowardly "sport" for what it is -- a violent and ecologically destructive practice that only perpetuates the cruel doctrine that animals are ours to use and abuse as we please?

Jessica T. Sandler