Letters: Anti-war protests

Majestic elegance of wind power
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Sir: Stephen Parkin (letter, 15 December) asks why the anti-war protesters Maya Evans and Milan Rai didn't consider the victims of the 9/11 attacks to be as worthy of remembrance as the British service personnel killed in Iraq, whose names they read aloud during their protest outside Downing Street.

Could the reason be that their protest was against our Government's illegal invasion of Iraq, which was funded by our taxes, was protested against by more than a million of us on London's streets, and has so far killed tens of thousands of civilians and dozens of our soldiers? Or could it be that Ms Evans and Mr Rai simply didn't have the address of al-Qaida's head office, and therefore couldn't make such a protest?

Whatever the reason, if Mr Parkin decides to take it on himself to read aloud the names of the victims of 9/11 within earshot of our parliament, I'm sure he will be more than happy to ask the police for permission first. In the interests of security, of course.



Sir: Stephen Parkin asks when I will read out the complete list of names of those who died in the 11 September atrocities. I must confess that I have not done this, but I have participated in ceremonies of remembrance, including with family members of some of those who lost their lives in those attacks - family members who later went on to form the anti-war group Peaceful Tomorrows.

I have done my best to promote the message of peace and justice coming from these family members. For example, my book War Plan Iraq begins and ends with statements from 9/11 family members.

The anti-war movement is an anti-terrorism movement. It's just that we are against the terrorism of states as well as the terrorism of fanatics.



Sir: Maya Evans read out the names of 97 countrymen sent to their deaths, illegally, by her government. Surely even Mr Parkin can see that requiring her to therefore also read out the 3,500 names of mostly foreign victims killed by no one who represents her, is as extraneous as requiring her to read out the names of Pinochet's "disappeared".

Oh, and by the way, there has never been any link between Iraq and 9/11.



Sir: The answer to Stephen Parkin's question about remembering the victims of the 11 September 2001 attack in New York is that their deaths have been formally recognised and remembered across the world. Their names have all been read out at "Ground Zero" and, at 1:46pm on 11 September 2002, the whole of the UK observed a minute's silence to remember the 3,500 people killed in the US.

Can I now ask him in return whether he deems the 35,000 innocents in Iraq equally worthy of remembrance?



Badger cull needed to fight TB scourge

Sir: I write in response to your lead story "The culling fields" (16 December) which gives the impression that, in order to eradicate TB from the nation's beef and dairy herds, most of the badgers in the UK will need to be culled.

This is simply not the case. Bovine TB affects specific areas of Britain, particularly the South-west, the Midlands and South Wales and it is only in those "hotspots" that the reservoir of infection in badgers needs to be dealt with. Your lead paragraph which reports the need for a " nationwide cull" is incorrect.

No farmer wants to see a cull of local badgers but the financial and emotional cost of this dreadful disease to some of our members has been overwhelming. Some farmers' businesses have been crippled by movement restrictions which have prevented them from trading for over five years. Others have become so frustrated by repeated outbreaks that they have left beef and dairy production for good. Ultimately if this trend continues it will impact on the appearance of large parts of Britain's countryside, much of which looks as it does because of dairy and beef farming.

Anyone who has seen a cow or badger in the advanced stages of TB will testify to the suffering that it causes and to the need to prevent its spread into currently "clean" parts of the country. From a compassionate point of view this disease is a scourge that must be eradicated.

Dealing with Bovine TB will require some tough decisions but there is simply no point in eradicating it in cattle if a source of infection remains in the surrounding wildlife.



Sir: Factory farmers are not content with treating their cattle so badly that they develop bovine TB. It has now become rife amongst our legally protected badger population.

Rather than cull the badger population as the farmers suggest, we should fine any farmer who treats their cattle so poorly that they develop TB and fine them further if the TB spreads to badgers. Farmers should stop blaming everyone but themselves when their intensive farming techniques lead to inevitable outbreaks of disease.



Sir: I live in an area of France where the farming is very small-scale and there are many badger setts around, even on part of our land.

I have spoken to the local farmers, who are completely mystified about the British link between TB in cattle and badgers - they have never heard of it and indeed incline to the view that the cattle are kept too tightly packed in very intensive conditions. They tend to the view that if you cram humans together in dirty conditions you would probably have a similar explosion in TB.



Sir: Imagine the outrage of the industrialised West if an east African government should announce a consultation exercise to consider the eradication of elephants and rhinos in various parts of its country in order to protect commercial cattle herds from TB.

Then ask what sort of example does it set for developing countries, with intact natural wildlife, when a wealthy country with a limited natural fauna cannot even protect a wonderful species such as the badger from the pressures of commercial farming.

Yet again we demonstrate to the developing world the "do as I say not as I do" mentality that undermines constructive efforts to tackle the destruction of forests and natural habitats by those often much less materially fortunate than ourselves.



Racism is an old Australian tradition

Sir: I near choked on my sandwich while reading the article " Australians shocked as race riots erupt again in Sydney" (13 December). John Howard was quoted as not accepting underlying racism in the country. I am a white Australian who grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney during the Seventies and Eighties and in that time I witnessed many incidents between "Lebs" and "Aussies".

My parents brought me up to appreciate and accept different cultures, which was quite rare for their generation. I have lived in Britain for 15 years and am often told by the British that I am mad to be living here. My reply is that Australia is a beautiful country, with great weather, but that many Aussies are racist. If Mr Howard was to talk to the Australian people about their attitudes to aborigines, he would find that the problem is deeply ingrained in many parts of Australia.



Sir: The race riots in Sydney come as no surprise to me. Half-English, half- Afghan, in the first week of my arrival in Sydney whilst flat-hunting in the suburbs, I had a bottle thrown at my head and was called "black girl" in Surrey Hills and a couple of "white van men" found it hilarious to yell "Paki" from their truck as I walked round Neutral Bay.

All the Aussies I spoke to expressed shock and embarrassment, assuring me they had never seen any evidence of such racism - a comment that never ceased to bemuse me as I looked upon their white faces. If they could spend a week as a brown person in the city I'm sure they'd have a very different experience.



Magestic elegance of wind power

Sir: John Baillot talks about the "obvious ugliness and danger to bird populations" of windfarms (Letters, 16 December). Obvious to whom? I think wind turbines have a majestic elegance, and I know that I am not alone in this view. Whilst I realise that this is a personal feeling, and some people find them ugly, I would be interested to see those people argue that wind turbines are uglier than nuclear or carbon-fired power stations.

As for the danger to birds, when I have visited wind farms I have failed to notice piles of rotting bird carcasses scattered beneath the turbines.



Shameful treatment of four detainees

Sir: The treatment of the four men described in "Enemies of the state" (15 December) puts the UK Government in a shameful position not just in terms of its questionable legality, but in terms of the tragedy for the detainees and their families.

What else can we expect though when we have seen that the authorities may well be complicit in "renditions" that lead to torture, and also deport spouses of British citizens, telling them to go as well? Destroying and wasting lives is not acceptable for a country that claims to uphold values of human rights and civil liberties. The UK is demanding high standards of human rights from countries elsewhere in the world but every time we hear of treatment such as this, the UK loses credibility on the subject.

The UK Government has had to opt out of part of the Human Rights act to justify some of this treatment. It is of grave concern to all UK citizens that the Government, who are meant to be protecting our rights, and us, think this is acceptable behaviour.



Women do not suffer from abortions

Sir: Contrary to the thrust of Lindsay Moss's article "abortion pain can last for years" (12 December), the overwhelming majority of women who decide to have an abortion do not suffer any ill-effects. According to the survey quoted, 80 per cent of women showed no long-term negative effect at all. Most women report feeling a sense of relief after an abortion but some may be affected by the difficult circumstances that led to the decision.

The study comes at a time when the anti-choice lobby, which is opposed to all abortion, is promoting a relentless media campaign to vilify abortion. One in three women have an abortion in their lifetime. It would be surprising if the culture of silence and taboo that surrounded the issue, and the extreme arguments of the religious right, had no impact.

The choice for women faced with an unwanted and impossible pregnancy is not between abortion and miscarriage.

A more illuminating comparative study would have been with the psychological effect of women denied access to safe, legal abortion as is proposed by the anti-choice lobby.

How traumatic for women forced to continue with their unwanted pregnancy against their will, or to resort to more desperate and potentially deadly measures - a self-induced or back street abortion?



Missing mice

Sir: I didn't realise that the sugar mouse (much beloved at this time of year when I was a child) was an endangered species until I tried to buy one recently. Even a few years ago these could still be found, but no longer, it seems. Are they still to be discovered in other parts of the country, I wonder?



Do the right thing

Sir: John Rentoul (13 December) is wrong to belittle the individual's efforts to make a difference to global warming. Just because everyone does not do it, doesn't mean that nobody should do it. Individuals should do it because it is the right thing to do. Even one person trying to make a difference is better than no one trying. It is true that real difference will only take place when there is a massive change in attitude, but that change has to start somewhere and it may as well start with "me".



Lib Dem leadership

Sir: Liberal Democrats should take heart that their party's leadership is important enough to be the first headline on the BBC's six o'clock news. It's just a shame that such attention is not paid to the more substantive policy statements and debates emanating from the party in Parliament every day, and, in particular, from the party's bi-annual conferences. Nonetheless, recent press coverage ought to be proof positive that the Liberal Democrats have truly broken the two-party mould in British politics, much to the improved health of our democracy.



Cosy courtyard

Sir: In your property section (14 December) the description of a courtyard apartment in Harrogate states: "Often the words 'roof terrace' are used to describe a balcony, but in this case they are true, as it measures 16 sq ft." Is that 8 ft by 2 ft or 4 ft by 4ft? Either way it seems a little on the cosy side.



Public inquiries

Sir: If there is an accident, natural disaster or a criminal attack there are demands for a public inquiry as to why the events took place. Then we need yet another on how the incident was dealt with by the emergency services, and/or why the incident was not foreseen and prevented from happening. It would save time if the Government set up a permanent public inquiry board to satisfy these demands. It might be cheaper in the long run.