Hunting lobby's tawdry hijack, An act of terror and others

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Hunting lobby's tawdry hijack of those who died for freedom

Hunting lobby's tawdry hijack of those who died for freedom

Sir: The sight of pro-hunt demonstrators with placards, decorated with remembrance poppies, saying "They died for our Freedom", and "They fought for Liberty. Let us keep it" (photograph, 16 November) disgusted me.

My father died in the wreckage of a burning Lancaster bomber over Germany in 1945. He was an ordinary man who went to war because he thought civilisation and democracy were worth fighting for. I take the greatest possible offence that the Countryside Alliance and their privileged, self-serving supporters are prepared to hijack the sacrifice of my father's generation for their selfish, tawdry purposes. I believe that my father would have been as opposed to this odious blood-sport as am I.

In the same article, the Countryside Alliance suggests that "It's up to the Prime Minister to show that he is running the party, not his backbenchers." The Alliance's confusion is understandable - given the extent to which Mr Blair has dictated to his backbenchers in recent months - but they really should reflect that we actually do live in a democracy. The elected House has expressed, with massive majorities, it's wish to ban hunting with dogs, on a number of occasions.

The Countryside Alliance is a rich and powerful coalition of what are essentially minority interests. It really is about time that they ceased their disgraceful and disreputable public antics, and accepted that their cause has been democratically rejected.

W P MOORE
Fakenham, Norfolk

Sir: Surely all can agree that the poisoning and snaring of foxes should be deprecated as a means of control. This leaves the "sport" of "lamping" as the primary means by which foxes will be destroyed if there is to be no more hunting.

Lamping is very cruel and appallingly dangerous to humans. A 12-bore shotgun is inadequate to kill cleanly a large animal like a fox; unless very close, wounding most frequently occurs. So also with a .22 rifle.

Following a ban on hunting the inevitable and massive increase in the ownership of rifles and the indiscriminate firing of them at night is a horrific prospect for those living and working in the countryside. Three people have been accidentally shot by lamping in the last two months: two boys, of 12 and 13, shot dead; one man shot and seriously wounded through the chest; and many near misses. It is only the existence of hunting - and the accompanying "peer-group pressure" - that currently prevents the widespread use of rifles at night to kill foxes; and soon to exterminate them altogether.

HUGH PITMAN
Malmesbury, Wiltshire

An act of terror no one can understand

Sir: Certain acts of terrorism in recent years have horrified the "civilised" world. Yet we understand to a degree the desperation of a suicide bomber who believes that this genocidal act is the most potent weapon with which to fight the oppressor. No right-minded person would condone such barbaric acts but we do understand the reason.

However, the cold blooded murder of Margaret Hassan is beyond my comprehension. It simply beggars belief that a person who has dedicated thirty years to caring for sick and underprivileged Iraqi people should meet her death at the hands of an Iraqi insurgent. Margaret's killers are barbarians who do not deserve to co-exist in our society. I trust that they have places reserved in the darkest recesses of hell.

JOHN COLE
Newcastle upon Tyne

Sir: Margaret Hassan is dead, and her death is a dreadful tragedy. But that individual tragedy must also stand as a metaphor for the tragedy of huge numbers of Iraqi people. Under Saddam, she managed to live a useful life for thirty years, but the "freedom" inflicted on Iraq by Bush and Blair has killed her, as it has killed thousands of other innocents.

No doubt the response of these so-called statesmen will be more war and more killing. Unfortunately, these days, it seems it is not those who live by the sword who have to die by it.

JIM LAWTON
Leeds

Sir: The Marine who killed the wounded insurgent believing him to pose a possible threat is to be investigated for possible war crimes. His behaviour in the heat of battle identically mirrors that of the coalition that used military force against Iraq because it supposedly represented a threat due to its possession and development of WMD.

The justifications for war were disputed at the time and have proved to be false. Any prosecution of this individual is an example of rank hypocrisy.

IAN PARTRIDGE
Bradford

Sir: Last night we watched on television a US Marine shooting dead an unarmed wounded Iraqi person. Today (16 November) we learnt that Mrs Margaret Hassan had been murdered by her kidnappers. This on top of the current appalling humanitarian crisis facing thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians in Falluja. And what are Parliament debating tonight? Foxhunting!

The Government, led by Tony Blair, seems to have forgotten that an "occupying power" is responsible for security in the territory occupied. And, as an associate to the planning of this whole adventure with Mr Bush, Mr Blair is equally responsible for its consequences. Are the British people happy with this sorry situation? More than 18 months after Mr Bush announced the end of fighting?

JOHN ROBERTS
London SW3

Sir: John Rentoul's analysis (Opinion, 16 November) is flawed. The USA is not so much interested in democracies, but rather in client states that will do its bidding. Why else would it show a complete lack of interest in extending democracy to countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan etc - these are governed by authoritarian regimes that are willing to co-operate with Washington. It is equally unconcerned about brutally authoritarian states that have no strategic significance, such as Burma or Zimbabwe.

However, Iraq has strategic significance (oil) and used to be another client state - so it must be brought back into the fold.

DAVID LOVE
London SW20

Language problem

Sir: I am writing to express my concern at the results of the "Language Trends 2004" survey from the Centre for Information on Language Teaching (report, 5 November).

Despite protests to the contrary by the DfES, the fact that languages are no longer compulsory in over two-thirds of English state schools will have devastating consequences for business competitiveness. The British have always lagged behind their European counterparts on language skills, a situation which is only exacerbated by the continued failure of state schools to offer comprehensive language courses to their students.

How can Britain really expect to compete on the European stage with a workforce that is unable to offer international language skills? It is highly dangerous and misleading to assume that the world speaks English, and it cannot be right that the future of language education in two-thirds of our population be left solely to private language schools or publishers like Berlitz, much as we would enjoy the extra business that might accrue!

JEREMY WESTWOOD
Managing Director, Berlitz Publishing
London SE1

The option to live

Sir: As someone who has long experience of severe depression, I read with interest Johann Hari's article "Is suicide always a selfish act?" (12 November), and greatly appreciated his exposure of his own depression. Compassionate and ethical discussion of this topic is surely needed, especially in view of the Bill currently before Parliament. However, I would take issue with some of his conclusions.

Firstly, I would argue that switching off a person's life-support machines and "letting them die" is ethically different from offering a person with severe depression the option of suicide, actually pushing them off the ledge, as it were, in an "assisted suicide".

If the option is there, more people will take it who would otherwise have changed their minds and been talked down from that ledge, even if they've been there for some time.

A pause for a breather, and proper, compassionate care at a time when the person is possibly at the most vulnerable they've ever been (and I speak here from experience) again might just save lives, which would otherwise have been cut short. To give someone the option of suicide strongly suggests that their life is indeed hopeless, making suicide seem the only, inevitable solution. It is this removal of hope which can be so devastating.

ANDREW HUDSON
Banstead, Surrey

Hard-working family

Sir: The assertion in your leading article (12 November) that "Britain's relative economic success has not been matched by progress towards a better balance between family life and work" is simply not true.

As a working married father of two boys, one of whom attends a school for children with special needs, I know only too well of the improvements to my "work-life" balance in recent years. Thanks to this government both my wife and I receive record levels of child benefit, the children's tax credit, have previously been awarded working families tax credit, can take time off to look after a sick relative, can take parental leave, and now have an employer who recognises that dropping children at school sometimes necessitates me changing my working hours.

All of the above were opposed by the Tories. Almost all of the legislative changes were also ignored by the "liberal elite", who have so much more to say about Iraq than about what concerns the vast majority.

RUSSELL KENNEDY
Chelmsford, Essex

Future of journalism

Sir: I was disappointed to read Bill Hagerty's article (15 November) lamenting the future of print journalism. He claimed that the collective ambition of students on the "plethora of university media courses" was to rub shoulders with celebrities and work for OK! or Hello! magazines.

It could well be that that is their ambition, but to describe them as the future of print journalism is inaccurate. I was led to believe that the future of print journalism could be found in colleges across the UK, studying towards their National Council for the Training of Journalists qualifications (which is why I am doing one).

Of the 35 people on my postgraduate course, the vast majority want to work in print media as "serious" journalists, and none on celebrity magazines. But the lure of such magazines is hardly surprising when trainee journalists and those working on local newspapers are barely earning enough to live off, something the National Union of Journalists acknowledges but seems unwilling to do anything about.

KRISTIE ROBINSON
London SW19

When to split

Sir: A word in answer to Oliver Padel's spirited case for the prosecution (Letters, 17 November). I have never, so far as I know, urged anyone to at once do it, but I feel that we do need to radically rethink our ideas on split infinitives.

If I were to propose that we need radically to rethink, then I should be ambiguous: does "radically" qualify "rethink" or "need"? "To rethink radically our ideas" does not sound like a natural piece of English, while to urge a "need to rethink our ideas on split infinitives radically" suggests, by leaving the adverb tailing away at the end, that the need isn't very important after all.

So let's agree to split when there is good reason to: we don't have to when there isn't agree to anything.

ANDOR GOMME
Church Lawton, Cheshire

But is it garbage?

Sir: Expectation is everything in modern art. I showed the photo of the drinks container garbage (Review, 16 November) to some students as a work of art. They took it quite seriously as the kind of thing that would be worthy of an award.

PETER J HOLLOWAY
Brighton

Fear factor

Sir: Bush based a good part of his election campaign on the "fear factor" and he won. There should be no doubts in our minds that our government will try to do the same thing. With Mr Blunkett saying that al-Qa'ida could strike in Britain at any moment, we can be certain that Mr Blair's election campaign has kicked off. I just hope that, after hearing so many critics of Bush, we do not end up re-electing his best mate in crime.

DRAGOSLAV SEKULARAC
London N3

Special relationship

Sir: Tony Blair believed he was a bridge between America and the rest of the world while the rest of the world could see him only as a well-used doormat. With Condi replacing Colin, Dubya has firmly wiped his feet all over that doormat.

JOHN MACALLISTER
Kidlington, Oxfordshire

Exchanging vows

Sir: Derwyn Williams asks: "If a man cannot keep a solemn vow made to his wife, how can he be trusted to honour any commitment made to the electorate?" (letters, 17 November). Perhaps of more interest to Mmes Bush and Blair is the converse: if a politician cannot be trusted to tell the truth to the electorate, how can he keep a solemn vow made to his wife?

The Rev KIM FABRICIUS
Swansea

Trot-spotter

Sir: The Foreign Secretary boasted in your letter column (16 November) of his ability to spot a Trot at 50 yards. No doubt he is to be congratulated on that arcane skill, but a sizeable swath of opinion in this country will regret his inability, and that of many of his colleagues, to spot a Tory at two paces and over a 10-year period.

WILLIAM HIGGINS
Caterham, Surrey

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