IoS letters, emails & online postings (12 February 2012)

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If Joan Smith considered the complexity of the cultural and religious mix that makes up Syria, her prescriptions for intervention might be more muted ("The opposition in Syria needs our help, and now", 5 February).

The UN resolution emphasised the Arab League "road map" for change in Syria and also, disturbingly, mentions "further measures" to be taken if after 21 days Syria had failed to comply with the resolution.

Who should we send arms to and why would that help? What right have we or the corrupt Arab League to further interfere and inflame the fighting in Syria? The West has already shown whose side it is on with the economic sanctions and the French call for "humanitarian corridors" in November last year, which would amount to no-fly zones just as in Libya.

Derek John Juan Pickard


Your cover exposing and condemning the shelling of Homs by Assad's forces is all well and good. However, one cannot help but recall the silence which greeted the shelling of Sirte and other besieged pro-Gaddafi cities in Libya only a few months ago. On that occasion Britain did not idly stand by: it helped pulverise the city and its population into submission. Indignation and condemnation are meaningless if they are so selective.

Peter McKenna


The coalition has got to grips with unrealistic deficits. Now there is an urgent need for it to fast-track investment in manufacturing. Manufacturing and exporting at a profit tangible goods that the world wants to buy is the only way Britain, like Germany, will redeem itself. The alternative is a growing deficit, supporting a public infrastructure we cannot afford, higher unemployment, and living standards plummeting for generations, the consequences of which will lead to widespread poverty, social unrest and generations of the disenfranchised.

Paul Surridge

Winchester, Hampshire

Reducing the consumption of intensively produced meat would bring benefits, because much of the animal feed protein comes from cleared rainforest and other virgin land ("Meat trade emissions equal to half of all Britain's cars", 5 February). But two-thirds of all beef and most lamb in the UK is reared on grass. If we stopped eating beef and lamb, either hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland would go under the plough to produce vegetables and other crops, or we would import more food from countries that don't have enough for their own populations and which themselves are ploughing natural grassland at an unprecedented rate.

Ploughing grassland puts greenhouse gases into the atmosphere equivalent to 2.5 tons of CO2 per hectare every year for 100 years. Without the fertility grazing animals generate, all crops would need to rely on nitrogen fertiliser, the production of which puts 6.7 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere for every ton used. Add in pesticides, other fertilisers and water for crop irrigation, and grass-fed meat may prove significantly better for the climate than intensively grown vegetables.

Richard Young

The Soil Association, Bristol

There are many alternative ways to produce gas and electricity aside from wind farms, such as biological digestion of waste materials and sewage, underground gasification of coal, and hydropower based on rivers. Pilot schemes for underground gasification were in existence several years ago as a means of utilising the thin coal seams which are uneconomical to mine, and tidal power does not have to involve the large barrages of the sort envisaged for the river Severn. These schemes are also worthy of government support.

R F Bowler

Higham, Kent

In her article about female truck drivers ("Mum on the road... in a 44-ton lorry", 5 February), Emily Dugan asserts that "most of the 300,000 truck drivers working in 2011 are male, over 50, and due to retire soon". But a substantial proportion of today's male lorry drivers are in their thirties and forties; notwithstanding the tail-lifts and other mechanical aids, they still need to be physically fit. Furthermore, their remuneration is rarely sufficient for them to be thinking about retiring at 50.

Alan Bunting

Harpenden, Hertfordshire

Jane Merrick argues that the Commons ban on a beer called Top Totty is tokenistic ("Mine's a pint of Everything in Proportion", 5 February). But the casual sexism of the pump clip underpins wider attitudes in society that means that laws such as the 1970 Equal Pay Act can be flouted with impunity. Given that the Government's assault on wages, pensions and services is hitting working women very hard, her claim, however, that the Tories are doing more for equality and working women than Labour leaves a really sour taste.

Keith Flett

London N17

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