Hunting ban, rural protest and others

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This hunting ban is the final straw for country people

This hunting ban is the final straw for country people

Sir: Rural anger over hunting reflects the fact that for many country people the ban is the final straw in a shameful campaign of bigotry and injustice by the Government.

It began with the "mad cow" scare. This was caused entirely by government allowing the corporate animal-feed industry to include toxic waste in its unlabelled products. The next governmental stitch-up of farmers was over the foot-and mouth fiasco when Britain was the only developed country on the planet to permit the disease to cross its borders. Our incompetent government managed to convince the public that farmers were somehow responsible for introducing the disease and letting it devastate the rural economy.

In order to reinforce this grotesque stitch-up, farmers now struggle under an immense burden of pointless bureaucracy and legislation rigidly enforced by the very government and local authority departments which were themselves responsible for both disasters.

As for hunting, it is responsible for around 20 per cent of foxes killed by humans. At least three times as many are much more cruelly killed by gamekeepers. A ban will put the management of the rural fox population entirely in the hands of the keepers, whose simple objective is the extermination of the species. Far more foxes will die.

It is easy for the urban public to be hoodwinked into believing that a hunting ban will see foxy woxy running happy and free. But that is no more truthful than the deceitful efforts of politicians to spin the blame for BSE and foot-and-mouth on to their victims, the country people who have finally had enough.

Netherwitton, Northumberland

We won't doff our caps to the townies

Sir: The often lucid Johann Hari let himself down when he launched his hysterical argument that country dwellers should doff their caps, accept a ban on hunting and thank urban types for their generosity in subsidising the rural existence ("Country life is only possible because of townie generosity", 17 September). "Pay the same taxes as the rest of us" he howls, like a hound in full cry.

I think at that point he was attacking rural pubs and petrol stations for paying reduced rates. Perhaps he's under the misapprehension that these businesses have the same turnover or capital value as a city-centre equivalent. The clear subtext was that Mr Hari doesn't like the countryside or its inhabitants, and was prepared to load the cannon with anything he could find.

Foot and mouth, BSE, the selfish insistence on having post offices and police forces; all of this was evidence of bad behaviour by yokels which should result in Mr Hari, as a "townie", being thanked for his indulgence. Most worryingly though, because 70 per cent of the populace felt fox-hunting should be banned, then that should be the case.

What about the rights of minorities? If a similar proportion felt, for example, that gay couples shouldn't be allowed to adopt children, wouldn't there be a suspicion that a reactionary majority were spoiling the lives of a minority, and that this would be wrong?


Sir: Not only do "townies" subsidise farmers, we also have to fling financial incentives at them just to conserve landscape features and provide access for walkers, riders and mountain bikers. They are the worst guardians of the countryside.

But the inevitable end of fox hunting can be a catalyst for the fundamental change needed in the countryside. Landowners can reap financial benefits from "green tourism", as opening up rural areas for recreation will create new jobs and business opportunities. Countryside Agency research reveals that in its first year of operation, the Hadrian's Wall National Trail for walkers has pumped £3m into the rural economies of Cumbria and Northumberland. Visitors walking the South West Coast Path annually spend a total of £136m in that region.

Countryside recreation should be embraced by farmers then a veil can finally be drawn over the dark days of blocked paths and "private: no entry" signs.

Bolton, Lancashire

Sir: Johann Hari wrote that country life is only possible because townies subsidise rural areas and that country people should be thanking the townies for this subsidy.

Surely the graded tax band system is just a way of forcing the rich to subsidise the lives of the poor; surely the Barnett Formula is just a way for the English to subsidise the other nations within the UK. Despite this, I do not see rich people barging into council estates demanding thanks or praise for their contributions. Nor do I see English taxpayers examining Scottish public spending and sending delegations north and west to receive grateful Celtic thanks.

For Mr Hari to suggest that country people should sacrifice hunting as a way of thanking townies for years of subsidising them is as absurd as demanding that the Scots give up the bagpipes to reward the English for putting up with the inequalities of the Barnett formula.

London SW4

Sir: I am looking forward to the day that Johann Hari shows some humility - or even gratitude - to long-suffering readers who continue to buy The Independent and keep him in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed. Mr Hari's article seems designed to fuel a rural-urban conflict that is in nobody's interests - except those of commentators like himself who make a living at the expense of other people's misery.

Basildon, Essex

Commons security

Sir: Security in the Palace of Westminster has always been eccentric. A couple of years ago I went to watch a debate in the House of Commons. When the security guard put my bag through an X-ray machine, he discovered a penknife that I'd forgotten was there. He asked me to open the knife. I opened the two sharp blades. "OK", he said, "you can go in." So I was allowed into the central lobby of the Houses of Parliament with a penknife.

About a month later, I went to watch another debate. This time, to avoid a similar embarrassment, I made sure that I was carrying nothing except my lunch. My lunch was a banana. When a security guard searched my pockets, he confiscated my banana. When I asked why, he said it was to prevent me throwing it into the chamber. I never understood why I could be trusted with a knife but not a banana.

The journey to the Strangers' Gallery takes visitors through the central lobby, with its steady traffic of MPs and ministers, within yards of the entrance doors to the House of Commons and the House of Lords. I always found it surprising, and cheering, that visitors were allowed to get so close to the heart of government. It's reasonable to protect MPs from potential assailants, but I hope they find a way to do it while preserving people's right to visit this lovely building for an insight into an ancient political system.

London SE15

Sir: One of the most striking aspects of the ignominious breach of security in the chamber of the Commons is the contrast between the violent activities of those hunt supporters involved, and the two million anti-war protesters who marched peacefully in an attempt to stop an illegal and uniquely unpopular war which we knew would lead to many thousands of deaths. None of us attacked the inside of the chamber, much as we had good cause to.

This incident is likely to diminish further the opportunities for interaction between the people and their elected representatives, and all for the right of a small minority group to run animals to exhaustion and then rip them apart for sport. Scandalous.

West Kingsdown, Kent

Armed and angry

Sir: Perhaps the Government should think a little further ahead, or have been a little more knowledgeable about their adversary before introducing the hunting Bill. Here is the bottom line: a significant minority from across the UK is very, very angry. This minority is the largest group of people in the country to hold firearms. They legally own over 1.3 million shotguns and 100,000 rifles.

Malpas, Cheshire

Illiberal legislation

Sir: I am a very proud member of the Labour Party, but this government's obsession with banning hunting with hounds, which came to a head on Wednesday, only serves to expose much of what is bad in our movement. Too much ground has been given to the class-warriors and inverted snobs within the party who love a bit of toff-bashing even if it means riding roughshod over civil liberties.

Animal welfare is clearly not the issue, otherwise we could look forward to legislation being passed that would outlaw recreational shooting and fishing. But, because these sports have a greater constituency, and, in the case of angling, a more egalitarian image than hunting, they are safe for the foreseeable future.

It is particularly sad to see Labour MPs justifying this Bill on the grounds that the majority of the British public are in favour of it. Would these same MPs use this argument on an issue such as the death penalty, or on the scapegoating of asylum-seekers? And whatever happened to being wary of the tyranny of the majority? I suggest they go away and read a spot of John Stuart Mill.

Granted, the Countryside Alliance are a bunch of self-serving right-wing hypocrites, but that does not justify this vindictive and illiberal piece of legislation.

London SW4

Sir: I should have an axe to grind about hunting, as on the day of the vote a cheeky fox sauntered off with one of our hens in its mouth despite being pelted with windfall apples by my irate daughter. But I don't, taking the view that that is what foxes, hens and daughters are for.

Those who will suffer most from this ill-advised class-war legislation is neither foxes, nor hounds and horses but, indirectly, men, women and children blown to hell in Iraq because of an illegal, immoral war that Blair had blundered into. He can continue with his disgraceful adventure only by throwing a juicy bone to distract his baying backbenchers, and a hunting ban is that bone. Like me, Blair doesn't give a monkey's about hunting, but he does care about his own skin.

Greatham, Hampshire

Sir: I see no problem for the hunting fraternity if our out-of-touch Parliament passes a hunting ban law - just ignore it and carry on as normal! (Most of the population ignore the law when driving their vehicles and using their handheld mobile phones.)

The police may huff and puff for a few weeks but they will soon get fed up and go back to hitting citizens over the head with their batons - much more fun and it doesn't require any brains. History has shown that in this country, non-violent demonstrations have had no effect on Parliament - it's only when the population take to the streets and full-scale riots ensue that anybody in government listens.

Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

Oil prices  

Sir: Mr Brown has written to Opec urging the stabilisation of oil prices at a level which underpins economic growth internationally. This week the Prime Minister talked about the urgency of doing something serious about global warming. Are oil prices too high or too low and what is government policy on the matter?

National Institute of Economic and
Social Research, London SW1

Pension pouch

Sir: As Britain's biggest pensioner organisation, we would like to help the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Alan Johnson, in his search for "the pouch of fairy dust" that would improve the current state of the country's pensions ("Unions win more power over company pensions", 15 September). Perhaps Mr Johnson would like to ask a civil servant the whereabouts of the National Insurance fund surplus. When he looks at it, he will find around £30bn that could be used immediately to give today's pensioners a higher basic state pension.

General Secretary, National
Pensioners Convention, London EC1

Related reactions

Sir: George Green's letter (14 September) wonders how anyone can question there being a reaction to the 9/11 attacks. I and most people agree there had to be a reaction, but one related directly to what happened. The removal of the Taliban government was a directly related reaction, supported by all. The invasion of Iraq was not, and hence supported by few. The Iraq invasion has diverted much needed military muscle from Afghanistan, thereby ensuring it will remain a fertile breeding ground for new acts of terror. I won't go into the consequence on terrorism within Iraq itself.


Not many dead

Sir: Many thanks to William Whitbread for his acute analysis of my results of coronary bypasses (Letters, 13 September). It has been many years since I did A-level maths and further maths. However I always thought that 0 per cent was "less than 1 per cent"!

Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon
London EC1