Hunting, human rights and others

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Killing for recreation: where fox hunting meets pornography

Killing for recreation: where fox hunting meets pornography

Sir: It is apposite that David Dear (letter, 25 January) should use the archaic "venery" as a synonym for hunting with dogs, since the same word also, archaically, means sexual indulgence.

It has long seemed to me that the debate on hunting and hare coursing may be best approached in these terms. That is to say, to identify hunting to kill for food or for protection as a primitive drive, on a par in evolutionary terms with the drive to sex for procreation; and to understand hunting to kill for recreation or psychological release, the essence of Dear's argument, as essentially sadistic and on a par with the use of pornography to provide both stimulation and temporary gratification of the urge.

Hunting with dogs and hare coursing completely fill the criteria for pornography (the pornography of violence in this case). Sex with neither affection nor procreational purpose: death with neither food nor defence as its justification.

As an issue of public policy it should be addressed in the same terms as sexual pornography. If it is denied to those who use it, in what other ways might they seek release for their drives? If it is to be permitted, are children to be protected from exposure and recruitment to it?

Only the perverse would argue that recreational torture such as bear-baiting is not pornographic in its tendency to deprave and corrupt, and that its passing does not mark progress in our maturing as a humane society largely in control of its primitive id. I believe it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the end of hunting with dogs will take us further down this road.

Arkholme, Lancashire

Clarke's threat to British freedoms

Sir: Draconian powers as proposed by Charles Clarke, including indefinite house arrest, would be hugely troubling in any circumstances, because there is no way of challenging their exercise in a properly constituted court of law.

In Britain today we are additionally being asked to entrust these powers to a government led by a prime minister whose reputation for sound judgement and integrity lies at his feet in tatters because he misused the intelligence services and misled the country about WMD in order to march us off to an illegal invasion of Iraq. The security services themselves have forfeited some trust because they proved so responsive to requirements.

Measures and men therefore come together in an unholy alliance that imperils freedom and the rule of law in Britain as never before. I wonder if Mr Howard and Mr Kennedy can find the courage to denounce what is proposed without the usual psephological fine-tuning?


Sir: We are treated to the audacious gall of the Home Secretary asking us to trust him! He wants laws to enable him to condemn any citizen of this country to confinement in perpetuity to their home. Trust us, we know they are bad people. This from a member of the government which lied to us about the reasons for going to war on the grounds that it had solid, intelligence-based evidence.

If this farrago of proposals should ever come near the statute book I sincerely hope that all concerned democrats will show the government that the anti-war demonstration was a Sunday-school outing. I am 71 years old and I do not want to live in a dictatorship run by Blair and Clarke. Having survived bombing in the Second World War, 11 years of Mrs T and 30 years of the IRA, I would rather take my chance with whatever the "terrorists" can offer.

Debenham, Suffolk

Sir: Charles Clarke's latest draconian pronouncements follow this Government's execrable form for democratic subversion. All have been ostensibly predicated on the deaths in New York on 9/11. If we were, God forbid, to lose one hundred times that number in terrorist incidents in this country, it would be a price worth paying for the preservation of our hard-won civil liberties and in support of the rule of law.

Anyone shocked by such a statement ought to reflect on the number of lives given and lost in the process of obtaining and defending those rights. Are we to betray their memory, count as cheap their sacrifices, while paying lip service to both come 11 November?

Bournemouth, Dorset

Sir: My immediate reaction to Charles Clarke's proposals to limit the freedom of those whom he considers dangerous was that those of us who lived in South Africa during the apartheid era have been here before.

Detention without trial, curfew, house arrest and constant surveillance were useful tools for a government of that kind, and a "banning order" amounted, as one of the victims wryly said, to imprisonment at your own expense. The "evidence", if it existed, never had to be tested in open court: the liberty of the citizen depended, as it will under these provisions, on a politician's decision.

In the last two elections I cast my vote in the belief that a Labour government would uphold democratic values and the rule of law. I will not be making the same mistake again.

Bishop Auckland, Co Durham

Sir: I am appalled by the Government's plans to impose house arrest on suspects without trial. We are told this will be done only in a small number of cases, where there is good evidence. Presumably this is the same standard of evidence that was used when we were assured that there were WMDs in Iraq. Further, even if these measures were to be used judiciously at first, who is to say they won't be abused in future by this or subsequent governments? People have a right not to lose their liberty without trial. This is a freedom we must not relinquish in pursuit of the chimera of absolute safety from terrorism.


Island paradise

Sir: Dom Joly's sorry effort to make a joke by reinforcing appalling stereotypes about the Falkland Islands cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged ("How to survive Misery Monday", 22 January).

My family and I moved from the UK to live and work here on contract over four years ago. Compared with the UK we enjoy cleaner air, a better health service, much lower rainfall and snowfall, warmer winters, cooler summers, nil unemployment, better housing, more social life, more space and fantastic scenery and wildlife only minutes away from our home.

My journey home is not two hours in traffic gridlock but 25 minutes' walk along a seafront with seals, dolphins and seabirds to watch. I know where I'd be depressed and it isn't the Falkland Islands.

Stanley, The Falkland Islands

Christian politics

Sir: Joel Edwards of the Evangelical Alliance (letter, 25 January) makes the mistake of interpreting scripture to say that Christians should seek to impose our moral values on everyone, regardless of their faith. If that were so then Jesus' answer to the rich young man who asked him what he must do to go to heaven would have been to go away and be nice to people. Instead it was, "Sell everything you have and follow me."

Pushing a moral agenda does not advance the task of bringing all people back to God one iota, which is the task set to us by Jesus in his great commission. Every public act of a Christian should point to the cross of Jesus and the teaching that salvation is a gift obtained through grace, but seeking public morality implies that eternal life can be earned.


Global leadership

Sir: It is very good that British scientists lead the world in projecting the likely future consequences of human-induced climate change ("World's most powerful computer to help experts predict climate change", 17 January). It is less encouraging to note the erosion of this country's lead in taking steps to do something about it.

Because of the failure of transport and energy policies to meet critical environmental targets, Britain's carbon dioxide emissions are rising. The diminishing of the UK lead in curbing greenhouse gas emissions is especially of concern this year. Political opportunities which are arriving in 2005 include the British chairing of the G8 and the EU, and vital international climate talks which could accelerate political progress on one of the most challenging and complex of all issues.

The prospect of success in these international discussions would be considerably enhanced by countries that claim leadership on this issue (as the UK does) actually doing some leading. That is why Friends of the Earth is calling for urgent action now to demonstrate that this country is willing to take action on what the Prime Minister himself regards as the most serious long-term threat facing the world. Tony Blair can and must deliver, in the first instance by making sure that the UK's revised climate change programme has policies in it that will immediately start a process that leads us from dependence on fossil fuels and into the age of sustainable energy.

If Tony Blair says something must be done about climate change while his own country increases its emissions, he will be branded a hypocrite and little action will be taken. For the sake of our children and grandchildren that cannot be allowed to happen.

Executive Director
Friends of the Earth
London N1

Sir: Hamish McRae, writing on immigration (Opinion, 26 January), perhaps unintentionally identifies a major cause of global warming: "In 2003, more than 800,000 Australians visited Britain and a similar number of Brits visited Australia."

These were not migrants, they were visitors. Where a century ago we lived, worked and played locally, now we do so on a national and even a global scale. If global warming is a real threat and we intend to make a serious effort to avert it, we will need to return to more localised lifestyles within a time scale much shorter than a century.

The economic contraction which would accompany a retreat from globalisation would be severe. A return to local markets would imply a considerable decrease in wealth and, ultimately, sustainable population levels. The cure is almost as bad as the disease. We won't like it and neither will the markets.


Signal failure  

Sir: I was astonished by a glaring omission in your article "20 reasons to celebrate Essex" (26 January). Radio communication. While you find space to include such trivialities as Jamie Oliver's contribution to Essex history, Chelmsford being the birthplace of radio was completely ignored. One can only hope your failure to include the invention of radio communication by Marconi in Chelmsford was forgetfulness rather than ignorance.

Chelmsford, Essex

Nuances in peril

Sir: Whereas I am fully in agreement with Hugh Jones (letter, 27 January) that our language is constantly evolving, I cannot accept his claim that it is pedantic to use it correctly and appropriately. One of the greatest joys of the English language is the fact that, due to its etymology, it allows the expression of so many nuances of meaning. So, although his letter has persuaded me to write in protest, I remain unconvinced by his argument.

Exeter, Devon

Sir: Hugh Jones makes a useful contribution to the English grammar debate by pointing out its dynamic quality, but teachers of English do not want to accept every neologism uncritically. Some new usage reduces clarity rather than the opposite, and we are entitled to resent US language imperialism.

Head of Education Policy and Research, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, London WC2

Federal Europe

Sir: Chris Bradley of the Young European Movement writes (letter, 28 January), "The treaty reaffirms that the European Union is - and will remain - a union of nation states, not a European superstate". But the new EU Constitution, in its Article I-1, establishes a new EU founded on its own Constitution rather than on treaties agreed between sovereign member states. Its Article I-7 gives the EU for the first time a legal personality and an independent corporate existence. As the Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt, wrote last June, "The Constitution is the capstone of European Federal State."

Wanstead, London


Sir: As Beverly Mayle (letter, 28 January) would prefer Juliet Stevenson to be described as an actress rather than an actor, one wonders if she would apply the same logic to other female professionals - surgeonesses and barristeresses perhaps? The redundant suffix "-ess" serves merely as a kind of diminutive which implies that the female practitioner is lesser than her male counterpart. It is fatuous and insulting, not to mention archaic, for any job title to be defined according to gender - as any "male nurse" will attest.

Ferring, West Sussex