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Saturday 27 January 2007
Letters: Adoption and religion
Why I wish a non-religious agency had arranged my adoption
Sir: I am an adopted Catholic lesbian, and I feel very strongly that the Catholic Church should now cease all its adoption activities for three reasons.
First, most children available for adoption in the UK are not babies and are likely to have a range of physical, emotional and behavioural difficulties that make them hard to place. This attempt by the church to effectively reduce the already small pool of potential adopters for these children is based purely on bigotry and is utterly irresponsible.
Second, Catholic adoption agencies here are the product of a different time, when thousands of Irish women brought their illegitimate babies over here for adoption, in an effort to escape a brutal moral climate created in large part by the Catholic Church. Peaking in the 1960s and 1970s, the number of Irish babies has now dwindled to almost nil. The focus of international adoption has moved on, to countries that are further away and not necessarily Catholic.
Third, Catholic adoption agencies are carrying out "social work" that would be better carried out by secular organisations which do not impose a doctrinal moral agenda on their activities.
In 2002 I decided to ask for access to my adoption file, but to my dismay I discovered I had been adopted through an agency which had already been successfully prosecuted by the European Court of Human Rights for failing to disclose reasonable identifying information to a 53-year-old adopted adult. The agency required details about my family, friends, education, career, interests etc, before releasing any information at all - they wanted to see how I had "done". This was incredibly intrusive, and I lied about my sexuality in case it adversely affected the information they would eventually release.
Throughout the process I was painfully aware that had I been adopted through a local authority, my treatment would have been very different as they are generally much more open with the information they hold and more progressive in their work practices.
Until faith-based adoption agencies quit the field, transfer their current cases, and hand over the adoption files they hold to local authorities, we will not see adopted people (and adopters) treated with equality, transparency and fairness.
Tougher recycling rules are needed
Sir: Your front page article on the plight of Chinese workers who end up dealing with UK waste (26 January) highlights two important issues which the Government needs to address in the England waste strategy which is due to be published before Easter.
The first is the need to recycle as much of our waste as possible in the UK. This means high-quality doorstep recycling systems which separate out recyclable materials such as plastic bottles at the curb side. Those councils which provide mixed recycling collections will find that much of their recyclable materials go abroad because UK reprocessors don't want contaminated materials.
The second is to ensure that systems are in place to protect the environment and the people who deal with our waste - wherever this may be. There is already a legal duty of care on councils and the waste industry to ensure that their waste is dealt with properly but it is clear that the Government needs to enforce this duty.
In addition, Friends of the Earth is calling for the Government and the waste industry to create a certification scheme which would ensure recycling and reprocessing facilities operate to a high standard.
DR MICHAEL WARHURST
FRIENDS OF THE EARTH, LONDON N1
Sir: Your front page"Made in Britain, dumped in China" shows where the mistaken dogmas of green policies ultimately lead us - to hypocrisy and double standards.
As Chairman of the Minor Metals Trade Association from 2003-2006 I battled on behalf of our metals business against the implementation of REACH, The EU Chemical Directive, which seeks to regulate from cradle to grave every substance that enters the clean room of the EU. We took our story to Strasbourg and were listened to by the full cohort of UKIP MEPs and one Liberal of a scientific bent. We tried to make the case that the EU Chemical directive which seeks to save lives by making Europe clean, would just make China and other poorer countries dirty. We said that the metals business is a cleaner way of recycling as we naturally husband that which has value. We said that China would pay the price for our moral high ground as we did not mind importing manufactured goods that were produced with lower environmental standards abroad, provided that we could keep the EU clean. As a result we have not just exported jobs, but our morals too.
CHAIRMAN MMTA 2003-06, EAST MOLESEY, SURREY
Sir: Martin Cotton (letter, 24 January) raises an interesting point, in that he appears to assume that all polythene wrapping is superfluous. I suppose he has never bought a Saturday Independent which is missing the Information, or the magazine, because this has fallen out of the paper? Or one that the newsagent's staff have failed to make up properly, perhaps placing two Informations in one copy, and none in the next?
Believe me, when you have stood in the queue with the Lotto fans, paid your money, and gone triumphantly home with what you have every reason to trust will be a complete paper, there is no particular pleasure to be found when the lady in your life asks accusingly: "But didn't you check that everything was there?" In this instance, please may we retain the wrapping?
Sir: What is wrong with "wasters" who can't see the overpackaging in a supermarket before they buy it? And is it really so terrible to get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning to create a couple of sandwiches to take to work? Even in the middle of London I can still buy most of my food in street markets, carrying it home in my own bag, just as I did when I was working full-time and raising a family. Sure, I also used supermarkets (and still do), but even there it is possible to buy loose fruit and veg.
Perhaps we need to return to the bad old days when throwing anything away was practically a crime.
Sir: How about un-taxing all draught beer in pubs and increasing tax on all bottled and canned beers? Not only would this cut down on packaging (albeit recyclable) but it would also help to keep the pub industry going after the smoking ban and get communities bonding more.
HIRWAUN, MID GLAMORGAN
Sir: Many of your readers can easily avoid buying over-packaged vegetables and fruit. This can be done by shopping in a street market, which has the additional advantage of lower prices.
Homosexuality in overcrowded prisons
Sir: Sir David Ramsbottom's remark that overcrowding in prisons leads to "bullying, substance misuse and homosexuality" seems to have met with scorn and ridicule it does not deserve (Pandora, 16 January).
To suggest that homosexuality might be pernicious when it is the result of circumstances that severely curtail the freedom of choice does not turn one into a raving homophobe, and it should not provoke "a collective shivering and some giggling". Peter Tatchell is quoted as saying that "no amount of overcrowding can turn a heterosexual man gay" and he might well be right, but Sir David did not refer to gay men. He referred to heterosexual men who turn to homosexual sex under certain conditions - such as those found in British prisons - but who would not do so under different circumstances and would, if given a choice, prefer the latter.
It is sad to see how a whole crop of taboos are growing unquestioned under the pretence of tolerance, but it is also encouraging to see that there still are people like Sir David who, right or wrong, are not afraid to expose themselves to public ridicule to speak in the defence of those who need it.
Sir: At a reception held by the St Giles Trust this week I heard an ex-offender telling of how he had been in trouble with the police from the age of 8 and, now aged 41, had spent most of his life in and out of custody. He had eventually enrolled on a course run by the charity and the certificate he achieved gave him the self-respect and ambition to take basic literacy and numeracy qualifications.
He now works for the charity, meeting prisoners on release and giving them advice and support on housing and employment, encouraging them not to reoffend. Why is the Home Office leaving it to a charity to fund this work? It must be cost effective in financial as well as human terms.
Calls for a ban on foie gras are foolish
Sir: Paul Blanchard is presumptuous to think he can impose his choice of menus on York's restaurants ("Councillor tries to remove 'cruel' foie gras from city restaurants", 24 January). If he doesn't like the idea of foie gras, he can abstain, but what authority does he have to stop others enjoying it? Such moral condescension is despicable as well as ill-informed.
In my native France, foie gras production and animal husbandry are strictly regulated and controlled; the small artisan producers of south-west France scrupulously adhere to these requirements and have great respect for their animals and immense pride in the quality of the finished product.
Cllr Blanchard should take a trip to the area and visit a few producers to gain an understanding of what foie gras production really entails and see for himself how it is done. Perhaps then, instead of wanting to ban restaurateurs from selling foie gras, he might demand they ensure the foie gras on their menus is of the utmost quality and has a clear traceability back to the producer.
And if the Councillor decides to go ahead with his crusade, surely his ban should extend to fruit and vegetables from labour-exploiting farms in African countries, intensively produced poultry and nearly extinguished fish?
The cost of a trip on a London bus
Sir: Barbara Gardener's concerns about bus fares (Letters, 12 January) miss the fact that when I was elected Mayor in 2000 a single cash fare bus journey in the then "central zone" was £1. The same journey taken today using Oyster is still £1. This means that this bus fare, after taking into account inflation, is now effectively lower than in 2000.
Cash fares are higher than the Oyster alternative - but these account for just 5 per cent of journeys on the tube and bus. The media concentration on cash fares, comprising just one in 20 journeys, is therefore a great distortion of the real impact of the fares in London.
By encouraging people to use Oyster and take advantage of the cheapest fares possible, as well as significant improvements in the frequency, quality and reliability of bus services, London has seen a dramatic shift from car to public transport. Fare increases are used to improve both the bus network and invest in a huge programme of transport infrastructure improvements.
MAYOR OF LONDON, CITY HALL, LONDON SE1
'Panorama' is thriving
Sir: I fear Richard Ingrams has got himself into a bit of a muddle ("BBC 'flagship' on the rocks", 20 January). Under its new editor, Panorama has already made films about Labour's succession crisis; child abuse in the international Roman Catholic Church; and the Italian imbroglio of the Culture Secretary's estranged husband, David Mills - while the BBC was still negotiating its licence fee. With films forthcoming about the British army in Iraq, and Britain's biggest drug company, the suggestion that we've lost our appetite for interrogating power is transparently mistaken.
HEAD OF TELEVISION CURRENT AFFAIRS, BBC, LONDON W12
How to make a bomb
Sir: It is highly unlikely that a functioning nuclear weapon could be constructed from a mere 4kg of uranium 235, the isotope used in the "Little Boy" bomb dropped on Hiroshima (report, 26 January). A critical mass of about 52kg is required before any nuclear explosion can take place in a simple bomb.
Tony Blair's manners
Sir: In his CBI conference speech, Tony Blair expressed relief that delegates were "more polite" than MPs who had criticised him for missing the simultaneous Iraq debate in Parliament.
Leaving aside the implication that MPs had been insolent for daring to challenge him, surely it would have also been "more polite" of Blair to attend the war debate, thus acknowledging the scale of the hell he has helped to unleash in Iraq, the Middle East and around the world.
All for Peace radio
Sir: Thank you for your article "Live on Air" (24 January). It is heartening to read of Israelis and Palestinians who have some common sense and are willing to build bridges between the communities in Israel and the occupied territories. One must hope that the leaders of Israel, Hamas and the US will follow the example of the All for Peace radio station and realise that all parties have to talk to each other. I hope your article will prompt some generous donors to make up the loss of funding caused by the US's shortsighted withdrawal of financial support.
The real thing
Sir: It's worth saying again. Peter Weir's movie The Truman Show, released in 1998, really did say all there needed to be said about reality television (Letters, 22 January). I suggest Channel 4 air it and then pull every other reality show for ever.
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