Hunting, tsunami and others

Click to follow

Hunting draws supporters from all class backgrounds

Hunting draws supporters from all class backgrounds

Sir: Mark Blackman (letter, 31 December) is wrong to suggest that all forms of foxhunting require a large financial outlay; in the Lake District, for example, due to the mountainous terrain, hunters are obliged to follow the hounds on foot over the fells. This obviously requires no special equipment, apart from a good pair of boots, and physical stamina.

However, this is not really important; why should it matter if hunting was an elite activity, because of wealth or class? The fact is that many people, from all social backgrounds, enjoy participating and following the hunt, and there is no rational reason why they should be prevented from doing so. The virtue of hunting is that it is not only humane (the fox is never injured - it is either killed outright or escapes) but discriminating: the older and less healthy are more likely to be caught. While foxes may not mourn hunting's demise, as a species they will in no way benefit, and many people will have an enjoyable pastime taken away from them, for no real purpose except appeasing Labour backbenchers.

London NW3

Sir: After Mark Steel has accepted A J Smerdon's invitation to ride with him at one of the splendid Essex hunt meets (letter, 30 December) perhaps he'd like to join me in the spring at the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain's annual Terrier and Lurcher Show at Cowdray Castle, Midhurst in East Sussex. Once he has met a few of the dozens of working-class "hunting" folk who attend with their working terriers and lurchers, perhaps he will change his rather narrow-minded view that it's only "toffs" who hunt or support hunting.

London W14

Sir: Mark Blackman suggests that hunting is an elite activity because it is expensive. No more expensive, however, than spending our money on fashionable clothes, mobile gadgets, evenings out or an abundance of Christmas lights. It is simply a matter of freedom of choice. Anyway, for beagling you don't even need a horse.

Ipswich, Suffolk

Don't forget other victims of suffering

Sir: Like the rest of the world, I am grieving at the suffering of so many following the Indonesian earthquake and tsunami. Like many, I am responding to the DEC/Independent and other appeals. Like all who see the magnitude of the response, I am overwhelmed with the generosity of those who also grieve.

But something causes me distress. It is the contrast between our openhanded willingness to respond to a new and sudden crisis, and our limited readiness to support those whose suffering is everyday, unchanging, unspectacular - those who quietly suffer or die as a consequence of disease related to poor water and sanitation, malaria or HIV/Aids, those whose poverty kills them quietly in the many forgotten corners of the world which fail to qualify for emergency status and media attention.

As the tsunami continues to take its toll, I am writing my report of a recent visit to northern Uganda, where the decades-old civil conflict was only months ago described by the UN as "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world". That was before Darfur, and before the earthquake. In northern Uganda, as in so many other places including the Indian Ocean coast, governments and NGOs are trying to respond to the needs of people living in intractable, difficult situations. Like the people they are trying to assist, they live a hand-to-mouth existence, getting short-term grants from donors. Is it any wonder the problems which they address continue to grind on, year by year?

I want to appeal to the readers of this newspaper to not only demand quick fixes as a result of the funds they give so generously at this time. Give and give generously now, but expect and demand that the NGOs which make up the Disasters Emergency Committee - and many other government and humanitarian organisations - go on spending over many years as they continue to work with communities living in poverty. Demand this and enable this by supporting them in the long term as they invest in the routine work of disaster-preparedness and the alleviation of hunger, ill-health and poverty.


Sir: As a Sri Lankan Tamil living in the UK, I am overwhelmed by the unprecedented response from the British public to the south Asian disaster. Such selflessness certainly makes the world a better place to live in. I would like to thank the British public from the bottom of my heart for coming to the aid of my fellow countrymen.

Ilford, Essex

Sir: The tragic situation created by tsunami compels us to ask why thousands of people have to die at one go and leave innumerable orphans, widows and half-dead people to fend for themselves. No man on earth can answer that painful question.

Alexander Courage wisely remarked, "The strength of religion lies not in the unquestionable answer, but in the unanswerable question." Every man ought to know that he is bad and that God is good. But, sad to say, tragedy of the tsunami magnitude becomes necessary to shock the self-centred, complacent and wicked human beings to reality. The Black Sunday has taught us the hard way to be better and more caring human beings.

Let us believe that God is in full control of the situation created by tsunami. This is the right time for us to identify an area of our life we would like to change for the better, and indeed discard the beliefs that might be preventing you and me and all of us from achieving the quality of life we are seeking on earth.


Iraq elections

Sir: The contention, reasserted by your leading article of 30 December, that elections in Iraq will pave the way to an end to that country's occupation is yet another preposterous falsehood surrounding the reality of that country's subjugation

You can't end what you don't control. Whatever government is elected in January, it, like its ineffectual predecessors, will not have the slightest authority over the real power in the land - the uninvited Western army of occupation. This army will still retain the powers to arrest, detain and torture Iraqis and storm their districts and cities, without recourse to whatever local satrapy is taking shelter within its garrisons. The invaders and their foreign mercenaries will still have free rein to kill as they have been killing thousands of ordinary Iraqis safe in the knowledge that their crimes are immune from local laws and real accountability. The new government's army and police are and will remain under foreign control and it will be powerless to reverse the grand theft of the local economy, parcelled off and sold to foreign profiteers.

To claim this sorry scenario as a democracy moving towards full sovereignty is pathetic. An occupied people retain the right to contest the violent invasion of their homes. To deny them this by spurious appeals to an election designed by the occupier to legitimise its presence is to openly collude in a dirty war of colonial conquest, about to be dressed up in local garb.

Luton, Bedfordshire

Sir: I was born in Baghdad in 1981. The words "Iraqi elections" to me meant a unanimous vote declaring Saddam Hussein to be the sole leader of Iraq and the holy warrior of the Arab world. Ballot boxes were rapidly sorted out as everyone was busy with the more pressing aspects of the elections, staging the play that follows, a fairytale display of loyalty to the beloved leader by dancing children, enthusiastic poets and creative artists.

Thankfully, those days are over. The country can finally breathe and catch up with the rest of the world. I must admit how jealous I used to feel when I heard my European friends discussing elections in their countries. I always wondered when if ever Iraqis would have a chance to vote in real elections.

Well, the "when" question has been answered. Elections are scheduled for 30 January. Yet so many other questions remain a complete mystery to most Iraqis both inside and outside Iraq. Still there is not a single accessible source of information about the candidates or their agendas. All I can get are snippets from various news pieces. There are several lists and party coalitions, yet no one has taken the trouble to explain, in simple language, how the election system will work. In the UK, no official instructions have reached the Iraqi consulate.

The situation in Iraq sounds even grimmer. Most people are eager to voice their opinion but the idea of being blown up in the voting booths is not raising anyone's spirits.

Despite everything, if the elections happen, I intend to make the most of them. I will go to the election centre and select the people who will draw up my country's future constitution.


America and the UN

Sir: Clare Short allows her hatred for the American administration to cloud her judgement about the United Nations ("We must resist America's attempts to undermine the United Nations", 1 January).

The UN does a lot of good but its supporters would be foolish to ignore its flaws. Contrary to Ms Short's implications, its failures to deliver in Rwanda, Sudan or the Middle East were not merely the fault of the Security Council. Tyrants habitually ignore the UN or, like Saddam Hussein, ruthlessly exploit divisions within it to buy time. Sanctions, its favourite weapon against errant regimes, usually hurt only the people they are designed to help.

Ms Short's failure to see any good in the US or much bad in the UN reduced her effectiveness as International Development Secretary. One welcome consequence of the Iraq war has been her replacement by the calm, persuasive and far more influential Hilary Benn.

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Chemistry teaching

Sir: I wholeheartedly agree with your article on the decline in chemistry teaching (22 December). As a chemistry undergraduate, I demand to know how chemistry, which is so fundamental to our everyday life, could possibly have a future here in the UK without adequate financial support from the Government.

If we continue to close down our chemistry departments, how is Britain going to overcome the energy crisis, offset the damaging effects of pollution and combat threats to national and personal security imposed by terrorism. I am aware that chemistry undergraduates are more expensive to train, but we need to think past the bank balances!

Surely the future of our planet is of a higher priority than the money saved by the closing of these vital departments. Give Britain back the future it deserves; give it back its chemists!


Black business

Sir: Jeremy Warner (Outlook, 30 December) seems not to understand the nature of the American Special Committee process. The report of the Special Committee at Hollinger International was anything but "official". It was as we have repeatedly described it, "tabloid journalism masquerading as law".

The Special Committee's most spurious charge has already been debunked when a federal court in Chicago dismissed the claim of racketeering. I am confident a court of justice will find the other charges groundless as well. I repeat my request of 2003 to be considered innocent in the absence of any proof of misconduct (there was none by me), and decline Mr Warner's offer of the honour of Scoundrel of the Year, as thoroughly undeserved, for the second consecutive year.

Toronto, Ontario,

Seaside attractions

Sir: How times have changed for holiday destinations for Prime Ministers. In the 1960s Harold Wilson spent his holidays in the Scilly Isles; Blair spends his in Egypt or with his good mate Berlusconi, in Italy. If Tony wants to stay in touch with his electorate why doesn't he purchase a beachside house in Whitley Bay or Seahouses? What do Italy and Egypt have that you can't find or better in the north of England?

Punchbowl, New South Wales, Australia

Royal privilege

Sir: In your article "Blair dents London's games hopes by missing the deciding vote" (1 January), you referred to the "positive impact Mr Blair made within IOC circles as the only head of state from a bidding city to attend the Athens Olympics". Mr Blair is not the head of state, although he does tend to act as one, appearing to be unconcerned by the electorate or waiting a week before making any public comment on a world disaster. The role of head of state belongs to a Mrs E Windsor, 1 The Mall, London.

Stone, Staffordshire

Lessons of history

Sir: Jonathan Wallace (letter, 31 December) is to be applauded in his defence of the importance of the natural sciences for an understanding of the past. However, history is the study of what people did in the recorded past and helps us to understand why they did what they did. Armed with that understanding, maybe our politicians will be able to avoid using the weaponry provided by the physicists and biologists which could make our future much shorter than our recorded past.

London W4

Bashing burglars

Sir: Working as a carpet cleaner from the mid-Eighties onwards, it was not unusual in the wealthy districts of London to find, among the miscellany under the bed, baseball bats, cricket bats, hockey sticks, walking sticks and even boxing gloves, which all added security comfort!

Croydon, Surrey