Tory Environment Secretary Liz Truss says, apparently without so much as a blush of shame, that hunting is “important for rural communities” and “traditional and part of the fabric of our countryside”. (“More Tory MPs accept help from pro-hunting activists”, 13 March). This person, incredibly, has responsibility for “animal welfare”.
As a hunt monitor (one who collected evidence that convicted the Heythrop Hunt on multiple charges of illegal hunting in 2012), I will give Ms Truss the benefit of the doubt and assume her ignorant comments are the result of never having seen a hunt.
I have just spent my 20th season monitoring fox hunts, and I have been subjected to relentless aggression (including a physical assault), insults and intimidation from hunt followers.
Over the years I have seen and filmed scenes of animal cruelty of such horror that they still haunt my dreams.
I remember the fox that the Heythrop hounds killed a few feet away from me (post-ban). I remember seeing it sinking down on the grass verge in total exhaustion and despair, and I remember the hounds swarming over it and tearing it to death. As I filmed this, my car was kicked and a supporter tried to grab my camera, and I was told to “Fuck off”.
I remember seeing hunt supporters cheering as a fox was overwhelmed by the hounds in a field, and I remember seeing terrier men brandishing a dead fox in front of monitors, after they had sent their terriers into its refuge and dug it out. These are just a few examples of the disgusting animal abuse that I have filmed, and they are the reality of hunting. Forget the colourful spectacle of the hunt in the fields.
Ms Truss should inform herself about what hunting really is before she dares to insult residents of the countryside by implying they support this cruelty.
The majority of rural dwellers detest the hunts, both for their cruelty and the ineffable arrogance and haughtiness displayed as they block roads and trespass into land where they are not welcome.
Far from re-legalising this brutality, politicians should concern themselves with strengthening the ban, to put a stop to the current wholesale defiance by these gangs of animal abusers.
Great Haseley, Oxfordshire
The Tories may well have shot themselves in the foot by getting into bed with the fox-hunting set.
It beggars belief that their assessment is that the majority of country dwellers support such a cruel and sadistic pastime.
For most of us country dwellers, the thought of a bunch of overweight buffoons on horseback running down animals so that they can allow their own animals to rip them to shreds is abhorrent.
This blunder is on a par with the Labour crew’s proposals on tuition fees. Come on, parliamentarians, get a grip!
It is striking that, when Tories talk about their desire to bring back fox-hunting, they never ever talk about what such hunting is actually like.
They never talk about the desperate fear of the tiring fox, nor about the hounds baying for blood, nor about the barbarity involved in tearing a way into the fox’s lair – and then, sometimes, into the fox itself.
I’m talking about these things because I’ve seen them at first hand.
Before the ban, I was a hunt saboteur (and I’m proud to say that, in the dozen or so hunts that I sabbed, the hunters never once made a kill).
When you have actually seen a hunt, you don’t think of it as a quaint Tory tradition, you think of it as a barbarity, like bear-baiting, which we are finally consigning to history.
We must not ignore sexuality of disabled
Tackling the stigma and ignorance around sexual rights and enjoyment and disability, highlighted in “The Big Read” (11 March), must be widespread and incorporated into training for health and social care professionals.
FPA (Family Planning Association) runs the Good Sexual Health and Relationships for People with Learning Disabilities Project in the London borough of Westminster, but this is unfortunately a pocket of best practice and by no means a reflection of mainstream provision.
There is no consistent data on current training or sexual health programmes for people with learning disabilities, yet we know from Public Health England’s Learning Disability Observatory that the number of abuse referrals for people with learning disabilities is almost double that of those without.
It seems there is generally limited information or awareness of people with learning disabilities’ sexuality within services including GP surgeries and community or day centres. Prevention of abuse and helping people with learning disabilities cope with puberty, sexual identity and sexual feelings is an important agenda, yet it is often too easy for people who do not have learning disabilities to overlook the fact that, like them, people with learning disabilities have sexual feelings and may want to experience sexual contact.
It is a challenge to balance protection versus autonomy, but the individual’s right to enjoy relationships – sexual or otherwise – and express their sexuality, must be held in the highest regard.
Dr Audrey Simpson
Acting CEO, FPA (Family Planning Association)
Hodge’s own version of atonement?
Matthew Norman is a master at unmasking hypocrisy. But maybe he has slightly missed the mark in respect of Margaret Hodge? (11 March).
Could it be that, unlike Mr Tony, she has learnt from her failure to act in the 1990s and is following her own path of atonement, rather more publicly than Profumo, but nevertheless as a first-rate poacher-turned-gamekeeper? Long may she continue.
Douglas, Isle of Man
Keith Gilmour (letter, 12 March) finds budget cuts limiting Britain to defence of the realm “contemptible to those of us who would prefer to see wicked regimes being overthrown”.
To hold that view after comparing the Iraq and much of the Middle East pre-2003 with the hell that is Iraq and much of the Middle East today shows that jingoism provides its own rose-tinted glasses.
Unfortunately for me, the internet is now the preferred channel for all government and commercial business and I am being persuaded to pursue all facets of my life through this or that website.
Health, social security, banking, police, BBC, monthly bills, education, income tax... everything that I and my grandchildren need, and too much that we don’t need, is offered online.
Marginalising computeritis... that is what comes out of the exasperation and humiliation that consumes my efforts to use the computer. It is a creeping malaise, like old age.
I no longer have the physical or mental energy to do what I want, and that affects everything I do. I am not able to sustain my attention sufficiently to achieve sensible interaction with the web,
I am being left behind to join all the other less able folk who have been marginalised by the uncaring use and insidious development of electronic technology. Perhaps science is unstoppable too, I hope so, because unless medicine can do something about the ageing process, no matter how clever you are, there will come a time when you will not be able to use a computer.
Those who want to inform or attract customers should know that they risk losing contact with a lucrative and rapidly growing marketplace unless they find some other way of begging for our attention.
Pub landlord perfect for Top Gear
I can’t agree with Simon Kelner regarding Top Gear when he writes: “it is inconceivable that the programme could continue without Clarkson.”
Al Murray’s Pub Landlord character could easily step into Clarkson’s shoes and viewers would barely notice the difference. The bonus to the BBC of employing the Pub Landlord is that the character’s casual bigotry comes with an obvious satirical intent.
Martyn P Jackson
It is always good to see David Cameron supporting his beleaguered friends. He did his best for Rebekah Brookes and has done the same for Jeremy Clarkson.
The PM should consider proposing his ebullient friend for honorary membership of the Bullingdon Club, whose fellows would have no difficulty in absorbing Jeremy’s boisterous tendencies, and where the odd “fracas” would be smoothed over in the time-honoured and gentlemanly way.