There are two reasons why so many members of the public are applauding Caffè Nero for deciding to avoid milk from farms in the badger cull zones (Jane Merrick, 3 June).
First, we live in the 21st century and even the casual onlooker can see that we should not be killing wildlife in response to a disease in cattle when there are vaccines available.
Second, even if those vaccines aren’t ready commercially, common sense tells us that any cull of a protected species such as the badger, at the top of its food chain, must be targeted and tightly controlled to stand any chance of being justified on any grounds.
Instead, we’ve seen this government condone a policy where an area upwards of 300 sq km, in each of the counties of Gloucestershire and Somerset, has been arbitrarily designated a “cull and buffer zone”, wherein any badger, young, old, fit or not, is killed. There’s no targeting of cattle herds, no testing of live badgers in the areas beforehand and not even routine bovine TB testing of badger carcasses already collected.
We can thank the NFU, their cull companies and Defra for this ecological vandalism and unethical barbarism. Shame on anyone who does not object to it and more fool any farmer who allows himself to carry the can for this disgrace.
I am surprised that anyone would choose to boycott their favourite coffee shop without first doing a bit more research into the background of the case.
The badger cull is not science-driven. Rather it is strongly contested by the majority of eminent scientists. Badgers are not the prime cause of TB in cattle and there are many ways to tackle the problem more effectively. Not one badger killed during the cull has been tested for TB.
The independent expert panel found that the cull was not humane in its first year, with some badgers taking minutes to die. Shamefully, the panel was dropped in the second year of the cull. The Coalition refused to listen to eminent scientists and naturalists and this misguided policy continues under the new Conservative government.
But the most specious comment has to be the one about badgers eating hedgehogs. Imagine if we started killing every creature that killed another one. I have watched a heron take a baby coot, dip it in the water and swallow it. Do I then want to kill the heron? Of course not.
Kennedy’s Creed will live on
It does seem like the whole country has been grieving this week at the sudden passing of Charles Kennedy. As a member of the political party he led, I too was receiving messages of condolence from unexpected sources.
It’s not as if I could claim to know Charles that well, having only met him at conferences. But he was so much part of the DNA of the Liberal Democrats that whenever I mentioned him he clearly connected with so many people throughout his long political career. He was a man of my time, our time, who has now sadly departed aged only 55.
Undoubtedly Charles will be greatly missed by many. However, just as DNA can be replicated ad infinitum, I’m sure his liberal beliefs will continue to be replicated, as well as amplified, for a very long time to come.
Administrative chaos in the NHS
What can be done about the NHS budget crisis? Well the initial answer has to be to tackle the waste of money through gross administrative inefficiency. Here in the South-west we have a “choose and book” system. A friend’s recent hospital referral experience is pretty typical.
It went like this. Received the “choose and book” referral letter about two weeks after visiting the GP about suspected skin cancer. Called to make an appointment and told that all hospitals in the region have months-long waiting lists. Was asked if she was planning a holiday and the answer was “Yes in August”. Was told they would avoid that date.
About a week after that telephone conversation two identical letters arrived giving the same appointment – in August. Made another telephone conversation to set a new date. On the phone she was offered several appointments one week ahead. Chose an appointment for Tuesday 26 May.
Attended for the appointment, which was supposed to be a “diagnose and treat” appointment. Arrived to find no notes available about the referral or for any other attending patients. The only way of getting the notes was for a nurse to telephone each patient’s GP and get them faxed over. No suitable equipment in the hospital for “freezing” treatment, so no treatment possible for any of that day’s patients. Was told another “choose and book” appointment would be offered for treatment.
About four days after this experience a letter arrived to confirm that an appointment had been made – for the previous Tuesday. She is now about to start the whole process all over again.
Inefficiency like this would never be tolerated by clients in any other business.
The staff remained polite to the patients throughout this fiasco.
Clegg can’t say he wasn’t warned
Like Glynne Williams (letter, 4 June), I also wrote to Nick Clegg to advise him of the dangers of a coalition, not with the most apt metaphor of a boa constrictor, but pointing out he would need a very long spoon to sup with the devil. The spoon wasn’t nearly long enough and the country has paid a price.
We all write many sensible letters to MPs over the years. Sadly, with a few exceptions, they are ignored.
Smartphones damage the human psyche
Janet Street-Porter speaks the truth that we all know to be true but few have the courage to articulate, in her long-overdue broadside against smartphones (“Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s”, 30 May).
Most adults are incapable of developing a healthy relationship with these narcissistically rooted technologies and their seductive illusion of communication, let alone young children. There is barely even a superficial understanding of the complex psychological, physiological and socio-cultural impacts of these technologies on the human psyche, which strongly suggests that a precautionary principle should be adopted in their use, especially for children.
We need to start listening to people like Susan Greenfield and Aric Sigman on the malign impacts of information and communication technology, and to ask searching questions about the impact that this “march of the inhuman” (J-F Lyotard) is having on our very humanity.
Dr Richard House
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, would have only been too well aware of the interest his comments on “waddling” unfit police officers would provoke in the media.
This may well be linked to a forthcoming fly-on-the-wall documentary about the Met which apparently features “overweight” officers; these officers, originally doubtless proud to have contributed to the programme, will now face public humiliation.
Hogan-Howe may have a point but this whole issue could and should have been dealt with internally. I can remember many fine detectives who couldn’t run 10 yards, yet they were superb at arresting and securing the convictions of the worst of the worst criminal elements.
Let’s remember too that retirement age for many police officers is now 60. There is a strong suspicion that this fitness “drive” is a hidden cost-cutting exercise which is designed to ensure that many officers never reach pensionable age.
Scheduled for the future
I see from your story “BBC apologises for rogue tweeter who announced ‘Queen’s death’ ”, 4 June, that a spokesman said the Queen had a “pre-scheduled appointment” at King Edward VII Hospital. How does a pre-scheduled appointment differ from a scheduled one? And if it does, was any pre-planning required?
Best nourishment for a baby
I know nobody wants to offend anyone, even implicitly, but Emilie Lamplough (letter, 30 May) is wrong if she thinks there is nothing to choose between formula and breast milk. There is no doubt that breast milk is the best nourishment for a baby.