Letters: Now shut down domestic markets for ivory

These letters were published in the Monday 17th February edition of The Independent

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As the London Summit on Illegal Wildlife Trade closed, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was pleased to see positive measures pledged to provide greater protection for elephants, rhinos, tigers and other threatened species.

However, more must be done to ensure lasting protection for our wildlife for future generations.Shockingly, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory, with between 25,000 and 50,000 slaughtered each year so their tusks can be used to make trinkets that nobody needs.

We welcomed the UK’s leadership in bringing together around 50 key countries at such a crucial time to fight wildlife crime and were pleased to see a commitment to reducing consumer demand for illegal wildlife products – ensuring that there are strong laws in place that are effectively enforced, and that there are sustainable alternative livelihoods so that people are not forced into poaching animals out of desperation.

However, while we broadly welcome the contents of the declaration, we are disappointed that it does not explicitly commit to eliminating domestic markets for ivory, rhino horn and tiger products. These markets confuse consumers, make enforcement difficult and provide criminals with an opportunity to launder their illegal products.

Wildlife crime has been widely acknowledged as being a serious threat to wildlife, but also has implications for international security.

In recent weeks IFAW launched an ivory surrender in the UK, asking members of the public to donate their unwanted ivory so it could be destroyed. We would like to thank The Independent newspaper and its readers who supported this campaign and reacted positively by donating dozens of ivory items, from carvings and jewellery to whole tusks.

In total almost 100 kilos was donated or pledged and ahead of the London summit, these items were crushed, ensuring they will not find their way into the marketplace and also sending a strong message that the UK public want to see elephants protected from the ivory trade.

Robbie Marsland

UK Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare

London, SE1

Feeding a healthy giraffe, such as Marius, to the lions could be an unfortunate precedent. If risk of inbreeding is to be an excuse to cull species, the human race should watch out, especially those in high places who have notoriously tended to select their mates from small gene pools.

David Hindmarsh

Cambridge

When a storm brings power lines down

We knew it was only a matter of time. Sure enough, last night we lost power – no heating, no hot water, no cooking, no business. This time it was only off for 11 hours. Lucky, aren’t we, in comparison with the tens of thousands of others, who are left bereft for days, or even weeks?

We are second-class citizens because we live outside the town and city. For us the rules are different: we pay the same for our electricity, but it’s delivered via cables strung on poles – hideously ugly, as well as inadequate against wind.

It is way past time that our government acknowledged that electricity is no longer a luxury, but a prerequisite for both business and a civilised life. Regulations that require underground service to all new development, and urban homes and businesses (often now one and the same address), must be extended to benefit everyone. Same charge, same service.

Ian East

Islip, Oxfordshire

People who live by the side of a river, on the coast, on flood plains or on reclaimed marshland (such as the Somerset Levels) are playing a percentage game. They are gambling that the once-in-a-couple-of-centuries series of storms won’t happen while they live their idyllic waterside existence.

Most of the time, because the percentage chance of it happening is so small, they get away with it. It is hypocritical of them to complain if the Environment Agency and the Government plays the same percentage game.

How much would the public be complaining if billions was spend on flood defences, when nothing is likely to happen for decades or centuries? The railway to the South West has been there since Brunel built it. The Thames hasn’t flooded this high since long before 1947. How many billions would you like us to spend now to make sure that these things are still safe in the year 2235?

Paul Harper

London E15

Unions and Labour: dream and nightmare

Owen Jones (13 February) in his dreams believes that if the unions had been dictating Labour Party policy there would have been no Iraq war, and no scrapping of the 10p tax band; there would have been proper regulation of the City and public ownership of the railways. To paraphrase Charles Dickens, “If that is what Owen Jones believes then he is an ass, and I can only hope that he does not learn by experience.”

The last time the unions dictated Labour Party policy, in the Sixties and Seventies, the country was brought to its knees. Their inflated wage demands in every manufacturing sector simply made them uncompetitive. This set the scene for the de-industrialisation of swathes of the UK, and eventually made thousands hostage to the welfare system.

Simply swapping one set of vested interests for another will not create a more fair society.

G Barlow

Wirral

Student invasion of independent Scotland

If Scotland left the United Kingdom, and managed to stay in or rejoin the European Union, the rest of Britain would then have the same legal status as any other EU member, so our nationals, like the nationals of all other EU members, would be entitled to free tuition at Scotland’s universities.

But the Scottish government in its recent publication Scotland’s Future says that it would “maintain the status quo by continuing our current policy of charging fees to students from the rest of the UK to study at Scottish higher education institutions”.

However, discrimination against nationals of other EU member states has been found to be in breach of EU law. Many senior academics from Scotland’s universities, including professors of European Union law, have therefore questioned the legality of the SNP’s proposed policy.

If the SNP policy were banned as illegal, Scotland’s universities “would be swamped by essentially fees refugees”, as Scottish Education Secretary, Mike Russell MSP, has acknowledged.

The loss of funding from students based elsewhere in Britain would, according to the SNP’s own figures, cut about £150m from Scottish universities’ income. This would threaten the affordability of free tuition for Scottish students. This brain drain from the rest of Britain would also cut the incomes of the universities in the rest of Britain,

Will Podmore

London e12

Tory party interns ‘employed’ for free

The Conservative Party’s claim that its efforts to avoid having to pay interns  (report, 14 February) is simply “trying to be a responsible employer” is ludicrous.

Anybody in the “employment” of an “employer” would, reasonably, expect to be in receipt of wages for services rendered.

Those who provide service without recompense are either volunteers or slaves. Given that the Tories abandoned support for slavery some time ago, we can assume any interns are volunteering their services to the party. Therefore, the Conservative Party cannot claim to be employing them, and any claim to being a “responsible employer” is pure cant.

A “responsible employer” would show care for its employees and ensure that they receive a fair wage capable of supporting a decent standard of living. But then the Tory ethos, from the aristocracy and landed gentry through to today’s stockbroking, City elite has always been to build wealth and power off the backs of other people’s work at the lowest cost possible.

Barry Richards

Cardiff

Monster at the wheel

It’s always good to have your prejudices confirmed. Two days ago a car overtook me recklessly in a 20mph zone (I was doing 20mph). I caught it up at the next traffic lights, and was keen to see what kind of person would drive so dangerously. The driver was smoking, and his passenger was a child. I expect he was texting as well and sitting on his seat belt.

David Ridge

London N19

Talking to babies: shock findings

I am curious as to how much it cost Professor Anne Fernald to come to the conclusion that talking to babies and young children boosts their educational performance (report, 15 February). I could have saved her a lot of money if she had asked me, and I’m an electrician.

David Carr

Houghton-le-Spring,  Tyne and Wear

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