Sir: Terence Blacker's article "What is so thrilling about killing a deer?" (14 March) raises again the interesting debate of imposed morality in the management of wild animals.
To accept, as he does, that "there is a practical problem of landscape management to be addressed" which requires the management of the deer population, but that taking part in any culling should not be "acceptable or desirable" is not an argument that has anything to to with "animal welfare". Mr Blacker's argument is that he believes that an activity has an unacceptable impact on humans, or that humans gain unacceptable enjoyment from carrying it out; therefore they should not be allowed take part in it.
The Hunting Act is the most prominent example of such thinking. Despite the absence of any evidence that hunting was less humane than other methods of killing mammals that remain legal the House of Commons took it upon themselves to ban hunting on the grounds that the majority believed it was immoral. In most other aspects of life legislating to restrict the activities of individuals is seen as a last resort. In the area of wildlife management, however, it is becoming increasingly acceptable to propose the banning of an activity simply on these grounds.
A world where our behaviour is controlled by the moral judgement of the majority may, or may not, be desirable, but there must be an honest debate. The Hunting Act and Mr Blacker's views on stalking have absolutely nothing to do with the welfare of animals. They are about imposing morality on people.
COUNTRYSIDE ALLIANCE, LONDON SE11
Why students want to go to university
Sir: Unsurprisingly, the benefits of students providing information about their parents' backgrounds to UCAS when applying to higher education have been lost in the predictable accusations of social engineering.
The value of providing university admissions tutors with information on whether a candidate's parents attended university is clear from the initial findings of the Higher Education Careers Services Unit's Futuretrack survey. Such knowledge can provide deeper insight into students' motivations to go on to higher education and enable admissions tutors to select the best and brightest candidates.
For example, of those students whose parents had not attended university, 85 per cent cited encouragement by careers advisers as a reason to attend, compared to just 15 per cent of applicants whose parents went to university. Other key drivers for students with non-graduate parents included encouragement from teachers; they thought it better than being unemployed; they wanted to realise their potential; they believed it would get them a better job; and it was part of their long-term career plans.
Clearly this is a broad brush but does highlight that, rather than penalising middle-class students, the additional information will enable university admissions tutors to look beyond simplistic class labels and see that those applying to their institutions from non-traditional backgrounds have generally made a carefully considered decision based on sound advice and solid careers aspirations.
This move by UCAS will positively encourage widening participation and should be applauded.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE, HIGHER EDUCATION CAREERS SERVICES UNIT MANCHESTER
Sir: I, like many, am incensed by the latest decision by UCAS to disclose to universities whether prospective students' parents have a degree and what their parents' occupation is.
Surely, it is the student who should be evaluated on their own merits and achievements. Some universities I am sure will discriminate in favour of students whose parents have not got degrees, putting someone like my son at a disadvantage. Is it a crime that my husband (who incidentally was a fist-generation university student in his family) and I worked hard and achieved degrees? We are beginning to think so.
Sir: In my experience, as a co-ordinator in university entrance at a sixth form college, the students who will be worried about declaring parental details are not those whose parents are, say, doctors but those who feel their "humble origins" may be held against them. We should reverse this silly policy, but not because of private school bleats.
Blair's shameful legacy in Zimbabwe
Sir: Your leading article of 17 March, "Britain's duty to Zimbabwe", makes valid points. There is talk about Blair's legacy. I believe his legacy will be for ever blighted by his government's handling of events in Zimbabwe.
He was quick to send an invasion force to Iraq, based on intelligence that now appears false. However events in Zimbabwe are plain to see: the appalling destruction of the country and abuse of its people, a once viable country. It can be argued that that the dictatorial Mugabe and his corrupt cronies are as least as bad as Saddam Hussein ever was. The murder of at least 20,000 people in Matabeleland by his notorious 5th Brigade is a massacre as least as bad as seen in Hussein's Iraq. The total destruction and looting of the agriculture industry has led to widespread starvation and loss of jobs to millions of farm workers, whilst once productive farms are left idle or used as weekend retreats by the ruling elite.
Nearly 25 per cent of the of its population are now in exile, many are the most skilled element. The destruction of nearly 100,000 homes and businesses in Operation Murambatsvina (drive out filth) has led to the homelessness of millions more Zimbabweans. The abuse of power, rigged elections and the sheer brutality of this regime is well documented.
What has Mr. Blair done? Absolutely nothing. The dubious excuse about the legacy of colonialism is not good enough.
Stand up to asylum snatch squads
Sir: The case of Joy Bowman (13 March) is shocking, but unfortunately far from exceptional. Every day families are being dragged from their homes and forced onto planes in Newcastle where Joy lives and around the country.
What is exceptional about Joy is that like many others on Tyneside she is taking collective action against the attacks which many asylum seekers are facing. Joy is not only concerned about her own situation, but is part of Tyneside Community Action for Refugees, a network of asylum seekers and local people committed to organised political opposition to all deportations, all forced destitution, and all criminalisation of asylum seekers.
The Government wants to be able to snatch people quietly, in the early hours of the morning, when local people will not see. We will expose them by all means at our disposal. We will make a noise. When the snatch squads arrive we will arrive too, and we will stand between them and the family they intend to snatch.
TYNESIDE COMMUNITY ACTION FOR REFUGEES, NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE
Sir: Your headline of 13 March reminds me that my grandfather was listed for internment at the beginning of the Second World War. He and my grandmother were refugees from eastern Europe at the beginning of the last century. The policemen sent along to collect my grandfather had the front door opened by my grandmother.
She informed them that she had three sons serving in the army and there was no way they could intern the soldiers' father. She was a very forceful lady for whom the police were no match and they beat a hasty retreat and never tried again. This amusing story does nothing to lessen the impact of the disgraceful way our government treats those seeking asylum.
We will need Trident one day
Sir: The decision to replace Trident is wise and timely. I do not understand why many letter writers to The Independent growl about the cost and the prospect that millions may be vaporised. They seem to forget that some fifty years on from now global warming will create changes which will exceed biblical proportions.
I am confident that the predictions of eminent scientists will be proved right and we can expect sea levels rise to at least seven metres. The ten-year-olds of today will see it. This will turn the world upside down, and the effect it will have on the Middle East countries and the oil producers will be beyond comprehension. Fights will occur for arable land, fresh water, high ground, and there will be unimaginable migration and conflicts. This is why we need a replacement for Trident. I am inclined to think we will use it one day.
Let parties depend on their members
Sir: I am writing to express my extreme disappointment at Sir Hayden Phillips's report on party funding. The idea that political parties should be funded by the taxpayer is outrageous. The only fair and democratic way for party funding to be organised is that parties should only draw funds from membership subscriptions. Members of all parties should pay the same rates.
This would mean that parties would have far less money and would have to lay off staff, but this would be for the greater good. Without speech-writers and spin-doctors politics would once again be led by men and women speaking their own words, reflecting their own beliefs.
Let us have the courage to say good-bye to union and corporation domination of parties. Let us give politics back to the people and to the politicians; give candidates the right to control their own scripts. Everything that is wrong with British politics is down to parties having too much money.
Sir: If election expenses of political parties are to paid by the state on the basis of votes at a previous election, then this taxpayer really does begin to demand a NOTA ("none of the above") option on the ballot paper.
Holding offenders to account
Sir: The Restorative Justice Consortium was glad to hear Cherie Booth's call (15 March) for an expansion of restorative justice (RJ). As she has pointed out so eloquently, restorative processes meet the needs of victims and challenge offender's behaviour in a way the court processes cannot.
Your article quotes the Home Office as saying that "restorative justice is a key part of the justice system". We welcome this statement; but the quote goes on to say that RJ is "widely available for adult offenders". This is not the case, as any of your readers will discover should they to find themselves victim of crime.
Three police forces currently use RJ as part of conditional cautioning for some adult offenders; three probation areas offer RJ to some victims of crime; around the country a few areas have local mediation services offering victim-offender mediation. For the vast majority of victims of crime by adult offenders, the chance to meet their offender and hold them to account is simply not available.
There is strong evidence to back Cherie Booth's claims:75-95 per cent of victims who participate in RJ say they are glad they did so. RJ should be available to all victims of crime.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE, RESTORATIVE JUSTICE CONSORTIUM, LONDON, EC4
Sir: Our water charges have just risen by 10 per cent. I am amazed that there is no outcry. If a local authority increased its council tax by a similar amount it would be lambasted by both the press and government. Why the double standards? Both are charges that we cannot avoid paying.
Caribbean high spirits
Sir: During several deployments to the Caribbean in my naval career lengthy rum punch parties followed by midnight swimming, water-skiing, pedalo-ing etc - which occasionally got out of hand - were all regarded as part of "fun in the sun". When the officers of the ship indulged it was "high spirits"; when the sailors did likewise it was "loutish behaviour". I wonder which category the England cricketers fall into.
COMMANDER R N (RET'D) HELLINGLY, EAST SUSSEX
Sir: Our daughter works as an NHS physiotherapist in a south London hospital. Their department has had an adviser sent in to help cost cutting. He has removed all of their printers, forcing the staff to leave their department to print patients' notes. The water cooler has been disconnected and alternate light bulbs have been taken out. The adviser earns more for one day's wisdom than my daughter earns in a month.
EAST MOLESEY, SURREY
Sir: Reading the Sunday papers, I spotted the word "flaneur". This is my fifth spotting this week. Before last week, I had never heard of "flaneur". A few months ago, every journalist seemed to be using the word "segue". I actually found myself using "segue" in conversation the other day. I'll probably end up using "flaneur" too. I suppose I'm just a natural flaneur really.
Sir: Do I understand correctly from Jemima Lewis's column (17 March) that we Mac users are now to be refused NHS treatment on the grounds that our computers are not compatible their brave new system? Is this an attempt to create a post-Darwinian selection in favour of PC users - who will live longer, healthier lives, and so presumably breed generations of PC-using children? Am I free to consider that this infringes my human rights? I do hope Steve Jobs has been told.
Sir: Further to H Kilborn's "Disabled Toilets" (letter, 17 March), while wandering the endless corridors of St George's Hospital, Tooting, I was intrigued to see a sign promising an "Accessible Toilet". I looked for, and was relieved not to find, the sign for an "Inaccessible Toilet".
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