Letters: Badgers will be treated as vermin

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 30 May, 2013

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Without giving the issue any debate the National Farmers Union has gathered the farming community under its wing and led it to slaughter. The badgers must pay the price for cattle, as raptors have paid the price for pheasants.

Badgers have been blamed for the loss of songbirds, hedgehogs, honeybees, as well as the rise of TB in cattle. Badgers aren’t responsible. Neither are they responsible for hedgehog decline – earthworms and grubs are their staple diet . Intensive farming lies at the root. But the cull beginning on 1 June will be thorough and an indigenous species, here with the Celts, will become little more than vermin. 

Whatever is said by those in power, this cannot be humane: there is a very small target area on a badger where the shot is likely to be quickly fatal: it will be extremely difficult, and those who consider them vermin aren’t likely to attempt that kind of accuracy with commitment.

Illegal badger-baiting will presumably step up apace, using the cull as a smokescreen.

If too many problems become known, Owen Paterson has said they will consider non-cyanide gassing instead. Setts will be filled in once (hopefully) empty. There is no intention of keeping any badgers on the land.  

Developers dislike badgers too; sett surveys, consultations and limited licensing periods greatly restrict timetables and are (possibly) the last barrier to building on green-belt land.If protections are lifted, as Mr Paterson has suggested, there wouldn’t be a problem.

This cull is very likely to eradicate badgers from many areas of England – and we will, of course, still have bovine TB.

Wendy Rayner, Warminster, Wiltshire

Render unto Caesar the taxes you can’t avoid

Whether there can be a moral dimension to company taxation is debatable. The Gospels quote the response by Jesus to questioners: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”. Only the latter involves a code of ethics. The former is a matter of not falling foul of Caesar’s laws. Company managers may make generous provisions for their employees and shareholders, but the company itself has no ethical dimension other than abiding by the law.

Since companies recoup the cost of taxation through the prices charged to customers for their goods and services, it can be argued that company taxation is pointless. Abolishing it would remove every reason for endless legal wrangles and the need for thousands of corporate accountants and HMRC inspectors.

In the real world, however, governments will reap what they think they can get away with from taxpayers in the form of VAT, income and capital taxes, customs and excise duties. Companies will continue to provide a convenient and cheap short-cut to stealth-taxing customers, even though international experience has shown that company tax rarely produces more than one tenth of revenues. 

Has it occurred to our moralising politicians that a clearly administered, low company tax system will ultimately yield predictable, and possibly larger, income tax revenues from distributed dividends, corporate wages and salaries, as well as lower prices, than would result from a complex, high-rate company tax system supplemented by sudden “ethical” tax demands promoted by publicity-seeking MPs and pressure groups?

Caroline Doggart, London SW3

 It is hardly surprising that corporation tax gets “avoided” since it depends on a computation of “profits”, which is an entirely hypothetical concept, especially in the case of a multi-national, multi-layered group with lots of inter-company transactions.

But a tax on sales output, such as VAT, is almost impossible legally to avoid. And what difference does it make to the consumer whether their supplier pays tax in the form of VAT or as corporation tax? In both cases the paying company is free to fix its end-prices according to what the market will pay. The best answer is to abolish corporation tax, which does not raise mega-billions in any case, and recover the shortfall by increasing VAT.

Whether an ice-cream retailer pays a certain amount of tax as corporation tax, or as VAT, will not in any way influence the tax-inclusive price she charges for the ice-creams she sells. Hauling her up before a House of Commons Committee and bawling at her is about the least effective way of achieving anything.

Chris Sexton, Crowthorne, Berkshire

A plot to build your own house

I wholeheartedly agree with Graham Currie (letter, 17 May) that a rethink is needed over land for house-building. When the Government announced that it was putting money into new houses it was only through commercial housing developers, who would need to make a return for their shareholders.

The way forward is for small tracts of land to be bought by local authorities (enabling brownfield sites to be utilised, thus saving green belt intrusion) and for basic infrastructure (roads, drainage, open areas) to be set in place.

When the land is then divided into various-sized plots, these could be sold on to individuals to cover the costs of the council’s initial investment. The new owners could then self-build their own houses, within a framework of locally agreed design parameters.

The result should be a pleasant variety of houses at affordable (market) prices, rather than large estates of similar houses (usually of limited design merit) sold for commercial gain.

There is a successful example of such a development here in Bristol (although not council-initiated) and I understand Holland also has a successful track record in such developments.

Joel Baillie-Lane, Bristol

Dialogue of the deaf with Israel

Ben Marshall (letter, 21 May) urges academics not to join the Israel boycott campaign, but to support dialogue with their Israeli counterparts.

This is exactly what a succession of politicians have been saying regarding the Israeli-Palestinian problem and Israel’s illegal building of settlements for the past 30-odd years. In that time, Israel has taken no notice of countless UN resolutions ordering them to withdraw from the occupied territories and cease building illegal settlements. Even while they were at Camp David supposedly discussing peace the building continued with gusto, even though they had said they would stop.

It is not just time for an academic boycott of Israel, but high time our politicians seriously talked about international sanctions and a boycott. After 30 years of failed dialogue, and with Israel clearly having no intention of obeying international law, more serious measures are certainly needed to bring them into line.

Michael W Cook, Soulbury, Buckinghamshire

Apply to join  the Masons

John Walsh in his Notebook column (23 May) should note that it is “a terrible day for champions of reason” when journalists repeat myths as facts, for example: “That you can’t join the Masons as you can the Scientologists. You have to be asked”. This is untrue. 

You can apply to your local provincial office or the United Grand Lodge of England’s HQ, or through their websites, or ask anyone you know who might already be a member. In fact, they have always preferred that potential candidates are recruited from those who express an interest; they don’t want to “hard-sell” membership to you. 

They accept people from all backgrounds, but not people with criminal records; or atheists, so that’s Richard Dawkins out.

Chavez Pov, Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire

Tea and biscuits overcome hatred

After working my way through a thoroughly disheartening article, “Ten attacks on mosques since Woolwich murder” (28 May), my spirits were lifted by the last paragraph: 

“A lacklustre English Defence League march on a mosque in York on Sunday had been met by a show of solidarity from the local community. When only about seven EDL members turned up, they were approached by mosque members and four reportedly entered the mosque for tea and biscuits.”

Congratulations to the journalists Cahal Milmo and Nigel Morris for giving us something to restore our faith in human nature in the midst of extremely grim events.

Terry Mahoney, Chichester, West Sussex

Weekends in hospital

After hearing the report that the chance of fatal complications after planned surgery increases towards the end of the week, can anyone get the Health Secretary to explain why NHS hospitals differentiate between weekdays and the weekend at all?

Since our bodies and our health do not discriminate the day of the week, hospitals should operate the same way every day.

Laurence Williams, South Cockerington, Lincolnshire

Rights won’t cut the risk of rape

According to Owen Jones (27 May), “We have to challenge a culture that allows some men to think they can get away with rape.” Amen to that, but why is it heresy to suggest that women should take responsibility for behaviour which puts them at added risk?

An old saying comes to mind: “Only a fool walks the Green Line in Sarajevo believing that their right to life will save them from the sniper’s bullet.” That is not to condone the actions of the sniper, or the rapist. 

Philip Anthony, Brighton

Weeds on the line

Josh Cluderay (letter, 27 May) asks why councils don’t plant railway embankments with wild flowers to replace the miles of grass, nettles and “weeds” . There is no such plant as a weed. They are all unlucky wild flowers that have landed where it is inconvenient to humans.  Stop using the word “weed” and your wish has been fulfilled at no cost to anyone.

Nicky Fraser, Shrewsbury

Dave’s holiday

There’s no problem with a Prime Minister taking a short vacation, provided he has a reliable deputy to look after the shop. And provided he doesn’t have senior Cabinet members vying for position within the Tory party in an attempt to become his successor. While “call me Dave” should be concerned about what is happening in this country, the country should be worried about what is happening within this government!

Duncan Anderson, East Halton, Lincolnshire

Gender roles

If the word “actress” is to be deleted (letter, 28 May), then what happens to Best Actress awards?

David Keating, Lismore, Co Waterford,  Ireland