Letter from the Editor

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Please do not eat the newspaper. Most striking letter of the week wings in from Upper Poppleton from David McMillan, who explains that he was woken in the night by the whining of his dog, a two-year-old lurcher bitch and went to investigate: ``I could hardly believe my eyes. Her normally skeletally-thin features had ballooned enormously, so much so that she could not even open her eyes; she looked like a Staffordshire Bull Terrier after serious dental work.''

It was entirely caused, according to Mr McMillan's vet, ``by her having chewed a tiny corner of yesterday's Independent'' even though she had chewed the paper earlier in the year ``to no ill effect''. He asks whether there is some horrible new constituent in the ink and suggests we warn readers with dogs and children: ``Meanwhile, I'll try to ensure that it's just me who devours your otherwise-excellent newspaper.''

Well, I've investigated. The people at both our print sites, in Oldham and Watford, say there's been no change in the ink they have used for - well, decades. It's the usual mixture of pigs' blood, old motorway tar, Stout, bottled phlegm and minced bin-liners that it's always been. Nothing wrong there. Nutritious, even.

Seriously, though, the ink hasn't changed and isn't toxic. It is apparently a mineral, oil-based substance, with carbon floating in it and, as one of the Oldham managers pointed out, ``My lads would go mad if there was anything dangerous in it; we breathe and eat the damned stuff all the time.'' Vet: you owe that man a refund.

My advice would nevertheless be not to eat the paper, at least not regularly. The habit is probably widespread. Our esteemed political columnist, ``Don'' Macintyre, is famous in the trade for his habit of unconsciously consuming paper as an aid to moral speculation. He once ate an entire typewritten story, in the days before computerised newsrooms, without noticing, and on one occasion is said to have caused an argument in a restaurant about the bill, having absent-mindedly devoured a five-pound note lying on the table. Anyway, as newspapers go, The Independent is pretty toothsome - the flavour is slightly nutty, with a whiff of mushroom. But for addicts, a tip: much the same effect can be found by keeping packets of Bath Oliver biscuits open for a couple of weeks.

One of the tasks of this paper's editor has been to regularly infuriate a vocal section of the readership. One of the benefits of reading The Independent is, I like to think, the invigorating effect of experiencing occasional but extreme spasms of rage at breakfast, thus flushing out the toxins and giving the heart a bit of timely exercise. On the foxhunting issue we have clearly surpassed ourselves. I have had almost equally angry letters from pro-hunt and pro-fox readers.

Why are we not on the side of the righteous? Why don't we stand up for minorities? This has not been a debate which allows much space for subtlety. But here, yet again, is our position. We dislike hunting. The Independent is not staffed by Jorrocks-like chaps with purple faces and a good seat. But at the same time we are a mildly libertarian paper and don't approve of it being banned or criminalised by the Government. We want it to die away because of the actions of landowners and a change in fashion. How, some of you ask, is it possible to be against something and also against banning it? Oh Voltaire, we need you back.