Hunting people are working hard when toffs are off to the sun
Hunting people are working hard when toffs are off to the sun
Sir: A J Smerdon (letter, 30 December) and Mark Blackman (letter, 31 December) are both wrong. It is neither wealth nor class that marks hunting people out from the crowd. It is passion and commitment.
The packs I hunt with in the West Country are predominantly local farmers' hunts which subsist on shoestring budgets. The hunt followers are local people. They get up early in the morning to exercise and feed their horses, they are assiduous in attending to the welfare of their livestock, they stay up late to clean their tack and ensure that they and their mounts are properly turned out. The depth of their commitment arises from their love and passion for horses, hounds and the rural way of life. They save hard-earned money and days off from their employment in order to fund and pursue their pastime. They do this in exactly the same way as other working people save their time and money in order to go skiing, follow football or sunbathe in south-east Asia.
By contrast the only toffs I know of are not much interested in foxhunting. At this time of year they are mostly on their yachts or in their exclusive villas in Cannes, Antibes or Nassau. Not for them the rigours of our notorious winter climate, and like the swallows they will be back in the late spring.
Sir: Colin Burke is completely wrong to argue that it is illogical to kill weakened foxes in the interests of protecting livestock (letter, 6 January). Over the years we have been raising free-range chickens and ducks, major losses have almost always been to old or sick foxes, or to those injured by such cruel and ineffectual methods of control as lamping, poison, snares or shotguns. We know this because, when the unfortunate animal has been tracked down and put out of its misery, our losses have stopped.
A healthy fox, while not averse to taking a bird or even killing a whole coop, will not usually take unnecessary risks or brave the electric fences, dogs and other deterrents. Only when unable to catch its natural prey will it become so desperate that it will take risks and become a pest.
Like most animals unfortunate enough to be at the top of the food chain, a fox in the wild can expect a lingering death from starvation or disease. The same is true of other predators such as tigers, who will keep away from human settlements until too weak to catch their usual prey.
No pats on the back for tsunami aid
Sir: C M Fisher's letter (5 January) asking whether the media has hyped the generosity of the British public to victims of the tsunami is a timely reminder of our propensity to get caught up in humbug.
A few years ago we vied to throw the biggest bunch of flowers before Princess Diana's hearse, now we vie to be part of the most generous nation in response to a natural disaster. Somehow we have turned this catastrophe into an opportunity to make ourselves feel better. As Boris Johnson might put it, we're all Liverpudlians now. Except we're not, as would become clear if your league table of government pledges was rewritten as a per capita sum or even as a proportion of GDP. And as C M Fisher points out, even the public's response amounts only to a pound a person. We've each given the equivalent of an egg sandwich.
However perhaps this misses the point. There is nothing new in the reality that we are better off than other people, in many cases vastly better off, yet for generations we have continued accruing wealth while others starve. We do this despite our collective self-image as generous, concerned, compassionate human beings, and despite regular reminders of our extraordinary luck. And we all, governments, industry and people, conspire to convince each other that the way we live now is the only way we should live. We can rationalise this but basically it comes down to selfishness, indifference and human nature. Yet despite our being lazy, greedy, crocodile-teared and self-absorbed, between us we have been shocked into giving more money, faster, than ever before.
No, this is not a time for crowing about our goodness, but yes, what is being done is good.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Sir: C M Fisher writes that Britons have not given enough to the Tsunami disaster appeal, averaging £1 per head. Would he care to inform us of his personal level of contribution, in order that we may know what is the correct amount to give?
Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Sir: Observing the media coverage of the tsunami over the past week or so, the impression given is that the affected peoples of the area are largely helpless and are waiting around for western aid.
Anyone who thinks about it will realise this can't possibly be true. Despite the colossal tragedy, the vast majority of survival, recovery and rebuilding work is now being done, and will be done in the future, by the affected people themselves. I accept, for the most part, that this is not a deliberate attempt by our media to give that impression but it is nevertheless a by-product of the rush to provide "dramatic" stories and accounts of the tragedy, and the rush to clap ourselves on the back for our caring and generosity. It is our human obligation to help in whatever way we can, just as we too would need and receive immediate aid were a disaster of that magnitude ever to strike Britain. These people will be working for years to rebuild their lives and any aid we provide will no doubt make a difference.
But, are we really as generous as we think? Do we really deserve to clap ourselves on the back as we seem to be doing? There are many families in the UK who can afford to give nothing, but there are many who wouldn't even miss £100. The latest figure I am aware of is £76m in donations from the UK. Don't tell me for a moment that this country of 60 million people couldn't afford to contribute an average of at least £10 per head.
Elections in Iraq
Sir: It is difficult to know how much of the rationale behind the insistence of Bush and Blair that Iraq's elections must be held on 30 January is to do with "victory for the insurgents" and how much is to do with political embarrassment for them in the event of a delay. To insist that elections must take place on that date despite the Sunnis withdrawing exposes Bush and Blair to accusations of not really having the best interests of the Iraqi people at heart.
It would be insane to hold the elections while a significant proportion of the participants, in terms both of candidates and citizens, feel unable to take part. After months of violence and instability, to simply rush the election through and hope for the best would be one of the most irresponsible acts inflicted on those people yet. Indeed, to go ahead with the elections on 30 January is just as likely to give victory to the insurgents.
Sir: There is currently a lot of discussion and debate in the media about the similarity between the war in Vietnam, and the war in Iraq. This is of course utter nonsense. George Bush had a plan to get out of Vietnam...
Sir: Many of the items shown in the "Ten best green household products" (4 January) will have beneficial impacts on the environment.
However, while I can see the value of biodegradable bin bags, I am not so sure about the benefit of biodegradable nappy sacks. Although nappy sacks may biodegrade in landfill sites, their contents, disposable nappies, will not break down for many years, and human excrement will possibly leach into water tables. If they go for incineration, it hardly matters that they are biodegradable. The best means of treating human waste is through the sewage system and the most environmentally friendly nappies are real nappies. There is then no need for nappy sacks of any type.
All in the game
Sir: Your leader writer (6 January) is too quick to blame the linesman who missed the 3ft-over-the-line Tottenham goal. The linesman was understandably well away from the level of the goalmouth - the play and the shot was near the halfway line.
Agreed, video replays should be adopted reluctantly and may be completely unnecessary, but your leader ignores the logical next step: increase the number of officials. Add two more linesmen, and make each responsible for one quarter of the field. The modern game is too fast for three: give five a chance.
GERALD de LACEY
Sir: I am unaware of any provision in the laws of football for a player unilaterally to reverse the decision of a referee while the ball is in open play. Perhaps Roy Carroll should have hurled the ball into the back of his own net, then booked himself for wasting time?
Sir: How do we know what to believe? Paul Scade (letter, 6 January) with his post-graduate philosophy, agonises over Aristotelian values, and throws up his hands in the face of uncertainty. I however (with my post-graduate science) say, "What seems to be the case? What are the uncertainties? How can we reduce these uncertainties?" If I acknowledge that nothing can be known with absolute certainty (as any scientist will do) it does not mean that I believe all things are equally likely.
Logic may not be fully worked out, but it's still useful - I bet philosophers use computers without fully understanding them.
Sir: To assume that one species of primate which has evolved in the specialised environment of one particular planet, in one particular solar system, in one particular galaxy, with restricted brain functions and only five narrow senses of perception, can somehow know and judge all things with magisterial rationality is surely the greatest self-delusion of all (letter, 5 January).
It is not simply that I want to believe anything in particular, but that the awe I find in advanced science, great art, and the incredible works of people motivated solely by their religions moves me deeply. I also hope to be humble enough to understand the limitations of human cognitive faculties.
Sir: I did not discount the possibility that the world extends beyond the rational as claimed by Paul Scade. My point was that one cannot claim that it does so just because one would like this to be true.
Sir: David Boulter (letter, 6 January) states that the three minutes' silence held for the tsunami dead "contained 33 per cent extra remembrance over the usual two minutes". Since three minutes is of course 50 per cent more than two, I wonder whether he was making an error of arithmetic - or are we actually getting less remembrance per minute these days? Should we demand an inquiry?
Oldham, Greater Manchester
Sir: Your correspondent Philip Moran (6 January) suggests that boxing is no defence against burglars. I well remember that about 80 years ago a burglar entered the house of neighbours in Hampstead. The burglar wandered into the bedroom of the teenage son of the house, who was a good boxer. The boy knocked the burglar out. When the burglar was up before the magistrate and the boy was giving evidence he was surprised to be reprimanded for using undue force. Even in those faraway days it was not done to be beastly to burglars.
Sir: Problem solved. Whilst gathering Christmas presents for the family we stored them in a spare bedroom, including a border fork for my father-in-law. As Corporal Jones used to say, "They don't like it up 'em!" So I've decided to keep a pitchfork in the bedroom on the offchance that he would like one as a future Christmas present.
Out for the count
Sir: Could someone please explain the mentality of the individual who sat through Jerry Springer - the Opera and counted the swear words (report, 5 January)? What do they do for an encore, pop down to the Tate or the National Gallery to count bare nipples? Or perhaps note down the number of fatal stabbings in Hamlet the next time the RSC dares to put it on? More to the point, why do we give the oxygen of publicity to these philistines?