Hunt ban, Get the troops out of Iraq and others

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Hunt ban tramples on a thousand years of English tradition

Hunt ban tramples on a thousand years of English tradition

Sir: Thank you for publishing the letter from David Dear ("Hunt celebrates life", 25 January). He is absolutely right.

Early in December, I had the opportunity to go out with the Fernie of Leicestershire. On that day, I rode over some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen, the ancestral home of my mother's family. I had hired a wonderful horse, a mare of such quality and excellent training that I felt unworthy of her. It was so utterly moving to hunt in the country that I consider my second home, I found myself near tears.

I've never seen ordinary people ride with such courage and skill. The hunt followers, both on foot and on horseback, were hugely welcoming and friendly. Even the threat of an impending ban on an activity so central to their livelihood did not take the smiles from their faces.

Many who are in favour of the UK hunting ban will argue that foxhunting dates back only about 300 years. The truth is that your people have been hunting with hounds across the centuries. Your foxhounds are descended from animals brought during the Norman Conquest. Your hunters have been bred from crosses of ancient native British stock with the thoroughbred. The latter is a gorgeous creature, a work of art, created by the English. The hedgerows over which the hunt rides date back to Saxon times.

The right to hunt is not a priviege held by the wealthy élite. It's part of who you are as Britons; please preserve it. The ban is a smack in the face to the people who built the country, fought and died for it, and for five hundred years made it the richest and most influential nation in the world.

The hunting ban is very obviously motivated by class jealousy and cultural self-hatred disguised as compassion. It's a revenge law written by people who harbour a horror of the man on horseback.

On 19 February, I will think of the hunt staffs, followers and supporters, and be cheering for them. I urge them to fight honourably and hard in the war against the loss of their freedom. And I fully expect to return to England to hunt foxes again.

MEREDITH STRANGES
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

Now we must get the troops out of Iraq

Sir: I hope we do not further cynically betray the bravery Iraqis showed in going to the polls by not challenging the fate for the Middle East mapped by the neo-conservatives and implemented by the White House.

Democracy is meant to provide representative government and one aspiration shared by the under-represented Sunni community and the Shia is the rapid removal of coalition troops from Iraq. It is interesting how much effort is going into our government's allegation that it is best not to give a date for withdrawal, given the continuing construction of at least 12 of the planned 14 permanent US military bases in Iraq.

The main cause of the insurgency is the presence of US and British troops. For the Shia to draw Sunni support and avoid civil war, the shared Shia and Sunni aspiration for a rapid withdrawal of occupation forces must be met. This alone can legitimise the new government for the Sunni community and de-legitimise armed revolt.

My last communication with Iraqi friends, made while working on reconstruction in Baghdad, revealed that they were all afraid of what the future held and most wanted to leave the country. The neo-con inspired US national security doctrine of 2002 that led to invasion of Iraq is still in place, and the deliberate destabilisation or invasion of Iran and Syria will plunge the Middle East into further gratuitous war, spawning more support for Wahabi terrorism.

For Iraq, for British national security, British voters' choice is to vote against Blair in May - or for him and therefore for more bloodshed in the Middle East.

Dr STEPHEN PALMER
Cheadle, Greater Manchester

Sir: We hear that the next step on Iraq's road to democracy is a written constitution. When they've achieved this, perhaps they could nip over and help us to acquire one, and while they're about it, do something about the Royal Prerogative which the Prime Minister exercises. Or would this take an invasion?

EILEEN NOAKES
Totnes, Devon

Blame for Darfur

Sir: I read your front page on Darfur (26 January) with growing amazement. I had thought the villains of the piece were perhaps the Janjaweed militia or the Sudanese government, the ones raping and bombing and killing. Or perhaps Russia and China, who promise to veto any Security Council resolution threatening sanctions.

But instead, I read at length that the real villains are, as ever, the Americans. Admittedly, they have recognised genocide and pushed for action through the UN, but have a "right-wing agenda" which Britain must "stand up to".

You may have found the key issue. Perhaps the killing would stop tomorrow if the rulers in Khartoum thought they were facing justice in the International Criminal Court instead of a special tribunal. Then again, perhaps not.

CALUM LOUDON
Edinburgh

Sir: in reading Anne Penketh's excellent article on the atrocities of genocide, I am beset by three very severe frustrations. First, as Ms Penketh notes, the international response to these atrocities moves with the speed of a snail running through cold molasses. Second, there is no real-time accountability within the UN that would inspire its members to proceed with alacrity.

The third and deepest frustration is how to enable such accountability within the current structure of the UN. We need the UN, but we need it to be a much more responsive and responsible international body that can intervene legally and quickly before there are more Holocausts, Rwandas, or Darfurs.

WADDELL ROBEY
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

Suicide danger

Sir: I have great sympathy for Claire Seeber and her sister in having to deal with depression and suicide attempts by her father ("Happy pills", 25 January). The article was well balanced as it did highlight the fact that a variety of treatments are available for depression and what suits one person may not suit another.

Although there are many antidepressants on the market, they all alter brain chemistry and as we are all individuals, this fundamental effect may not always be to return the patient to "normal". Drugs are not yet as sophisticated as we need them to be, but in the absence of easily accessible supportive emotional or psychological therapy, antidepressants are a logical "first aid" and a GP could just as easily be criticised for doing nothing if a patient presents with depression.

Another factor which seems to be overlooked when linking antidepressants to suicidal ideation is the fact that a deeply depressed person does not have the motivation to eat, dress, do anything - even to kill themself. The dangerous time is often when the antidepressants "kick in" and the patient begins to muster the energy to do something to end their misery. Although it does appear that the SSRI drugs are linked with a higher suicide rate, this could be because they are more effective at lifting mood and are better tolerated by the people taking them.

MARGARET GIBBS
Senior Pharmacist
St Christopher's Hospice
London SE26

Surgical 'quick fix'

Sir: Changing Faces, the national charity which supports and represents people who have disfigurements to the face and body, welcomes the Government's commitment to tighten the regulation of cosmetic surgery and, in particular, its determination to improve the clinical advice given and to broaden the public information available (report, 24 January).

The aggressive marketing techniques currently used to promote cosmetic surgery suggest it is just another form of beauty enhancement, when actually all the procedures carry risk. What is worse, such marketing may actually encourage people to feel insecure about the way they look and suggest that physical perfection, supposedly achieved through cosmetic surgery, is the quick-fix recipe for success and happiness.

Changing Faces is constantly contacted by people of all ages and with various types of disfigurement, including those for whom cosmetic surgery has failed, who find the hyperbole associated with cosmetic surgery neither honest nor helpful.

JAMES PARTRIDGE
Chief Executive , Changing Faces
London WC1

The feminine form

Sir: Sad to read the stock response of Debora Williams to Beverly Mayle's complaint (letter, 29 January). Of course, I agree that there is no need for barristers and surgeons to be distinguished by their sex but, because of actresses' misguided attempts to be taken as seriously as the male of the species, employers who need to indicate which roles are for men and which for women now feel obliged to advertise for "male and female actors". There is something reminiscent of laboratory rats in this phrase, as far removed as one can get from the messy creativity of the theatre.

Aesthetics apart, we cannot ignore the fact that show business is still dominated by men and that in most produced new plays and films women are relegated to the "sex interest". There is also the small matter of massive wage differentials between male and female performers.

The word "actress" is not, as Debora Williams claims, a "fatuous and insulting" diminutive, but conjures up those gifted, alluring and exciting creatures of the 17th and 18th centuries who fought with spirit and courage to overcome Puritan prejudices about women on the stage. I'd far rather be associated with those true feminists than label myself an "actor", knowing I haven't quite as much clout as my male counterpart.

CARMEN RODRIGUEZ
London SW11

Sir: The actor/actress question (letters, 31 January) derives from a mistaken belief that feminine forms are somehow inferior. Yet prince and princess, widow and widower, even king and queen, show this is by no means the case.

As a self-appointed but ardent male feminist I would implore the sisters to lay off this sort of linguistic interference. Feminine forms are distinctive in themselves. In general additions of this kind are a sign of respect and even reverence, as with prefixes such as Sir and Lord, or suffixes like OBE, JP or even MP. Do not masculinise. For that means that the male forms, and the men, are intrinsically preferable - which we all know to be rubbish.

IAN FLINTOFF
London SW6

Pig publicity

Sir: I have no idea whether the two New Labour poster designs had antisemitic intent (although at least one, I feel, steers pretty close to the foul wind). And naturally they will never run.

Much more interesting is your comment (MediaWeekly, 31 January) regarding TBWA chairman and creative director Trevor Beattie: "Beattie however remains undeterred, believing that the publicity generated by a campaign is as important as the campaign itself."

Now, thanks to the inevitable media furore, everyone is aware that the Tory party has a Jewish leader and a Jewish shadow Chancellor. Whatever one's politics, one could hope such facts would be of no relevance to any member of our electorate. One could also hope that pigs might fly.

PAUL MENDELSON
Pinner, Middlesex

Short-term advantage

Sir: Hilary Power (letter, 31 January) considers that legislation is needed to enforce behaviour change if CO 2 emissions are to be reduced. If a political party were to say: "Vote for us and we'll massively increase petrol tax to safeguard the future for your children and their children", how many votes do you think they would win?

JULIEN EVANS
Chesham, Buckinghamshire

Forgotten victims

Sir: The coverage of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz has been powerful and moving, but it has largely overlooked the slaughter of disabled people by the Nazis in the death camps. It is estimated that 200,000 disabled people were killed for no other reason than because they were different. Disabled people such as myself were regarded by the Nazis as "useless eaters". The commemorations should offer a timely reminder of the absolute necessity to continue to strive towards tolerance and equality in our society.

JOHN KNIGHT
Head of External Policy, Leonard Cheshire, London SW1

Children of conflict

Sir: The diary story ("btw", 29 January) about Janet Street-Porter receiving an inappropriate response when she wanted the word "sorry" reminded me of a question set for 11-plus pupils in Northern Ireland in the early Seventies. Candidates were asked to add a three-letter word to the sentence "The _ _ _y is looking for her husband", so that it made sense, the expected answer being "lad". However, given the benighted state of Northern Ireland at that time, in many areas children thought that "arm" was the required answer. Needless to say, they were given the mark.

DENNIS MILLAR
Belfast

Weak words

Sir: I find it strange that the BBC, warning me of the foul language in Jerry Springer - The Opera, should refer to it as "strong language". Using the word "fuck" seven times in one sentence can only weaken it.

COLIN COOPER
St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex

Passenger alarm

Sir: On Saturday, after a ringtone, my fellow passengers and I heard a voice answer: "I'm driving a bus." Fortunately, no apples were visible.

DAVID RIDGE
London N19

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