Letters: Pedigree dogs

Working to breed out health problems in pedigree dogs
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The Independent Online

John Walsh ("In the dog house", 25 February) says that breeders blame the Kennel Club, the judges and each other for the health problems in pedigree dogs. Although these have all played a part, as a breeder of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels I should like to add a further culprit to the list, the people who buy the puppies.

Information has never been so easy to find, yet when people phone me about a puppy their first question is inevitably, "How much?" When told, they usually say they have seen them advertised for much less. It is a rare delight to find a potential purchaser who has bothered to look on the internet and find out what inherited problems are in Cavaliers, and ask me if I have done all I can to minimise the chances of these (I have, but I bet anyone who can offer puppies more cheaply hasn't).

Syringomyelia is a horrible condition the inheritance of which we know little about as yet, but members of the CKCS Club are doing what we can to get rid of it, in conjunction with, and under advice from, the Animal Health Trust. Other breeds (syringomyelia affects most toy breeds, not just Cavaliers) are also trying to identify affected lines and remove them. But the principal health problem in Cavaliers is heart disease, which accounts for more than 40 per cent of deaths. Neurological conditions, including syringomyelia, account for approximately 3 per cent of deaths.

Crossbreeds and mongrels also suffer from the whole gamut of inherited diseases and conditions, but no records of these are collected. Incidentally, there are about 6,000 known genetic diseases in humans. Should we start health-testing before we breed?

Zoe Axford

Huish Episcopi, Somerset

New Labour will not survive crash

Thursday 26 February 2009 will go down in history as the day the New Labour project became, literally, bankrupt. Its vision – efficient public services funded by a lightly regulated finance capitalism and an indefinite consumer boom backed by borrowing against rising house prices – cannot even be contemplated now for at least a generation.

The enormous potential cost to the taxpayer for meeting the liabilities of just one bank (a reported £325bn, or more than £5,300 for each person in the UK) makes both sides of the New Labour project – increased spending on public services and the economic boom to fund it – an impossibility.

Sir Fred Goodwin's pension is, in comparison, an economic irrelevance, but in political terms it is far more important. It will create a crisis of legitimacy for the Government and Gordon Brown in particular, a political open goal for its opponents. Its impact can only be amplified by the apparent powerlessness of the Government to act against the interests of bankers, and the ongoing liability to the taxpayer to pay the pension will be a constant reminder of the disaster.

Like the oil shock of 1973, it will surely lead eventually to a realignment of British politics. Unlike the 1970s, the unions can hardly be held responsible for the crisis and it will be easy to point the finger at City fat cats. A more socialist Labour Party and a more successful BNP are two likely consequences of the crisis. Brown's position now seems hopeless but the dominant political discourse that replaces New Labour's over the next few years is yet to emerge.

Martin Holborn

Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria

It should trouble all of us that Harriet Harman announces that RBS's Sir Fred Goodwin is not going to get his pension because "it may be enforceable in a court of law but it is not in the court of public opinion" (report, 2 March).

Public opinion does not make the law. If it did, we'd have had the death penalty reinstated decades ago. Harriet Harman has a duty to uphold the law, which is likely to find in Sir Fred's favour on this occasion, whether she likes it or not. She makes a mistake to prejudge legal proceedings or to presume to tell the judiciary what the outcome of their deliberations must be. It seems to me singularly stupid of her to believe otherwise.

And, for many onlookers, this criminally naive outburst may switch the public's attention from the incompetence of a banker who has at least quit his job to the incompetence of a politician who has likewise outstayed her welcome but hasn't.

Paul Dunwell

Alton, Hampshire

In 1984, the then government crossed swords with "an enemy within" that it believed had power to bring this country to its knees. Using every political weapon to hand, a battle was waged, turning parts of this country into a de facto police state, until that enemy was defeated.

Twenty-five years later, a small group of people have reduced the economy to tatters, and yet the Government seems powerless to stop them collecting lottery-win bonuses. So who is the real "enemy within", the still-unemployed miner or the pension-drawing banker?

Jim A Thomas


We do not live in a society where success is rewarded and failure penalised. Right at the top, members of the Royal Family draw their pay regardless. Right at the bottom, an awful lot of politically correct people agree that all should have prizes regardless. So why this sudden outburst of insincere meritocratic thinking over Sir Fred? Losing a bank is no reason for losing a pension. They should add something for hurt to his feelings.

Trevor Pateman


Sir Fred Goodwin insists he will keep his pension. In these days of general greed, graft, and gross incompetence in the usury trade, should we perhaps at least be relieved that he didn't claim that he'd earned it?

Richard Trotman

Penistone, South Yorkshire

Nuclear power is too expensive

Before this myth gains too much ground, the reason why the Thatcher government's declared policy to see a "family" of nuclear fission stations built in the 1980s ground to a standstill after just one plant at Sizewell B was really not due to opposition from ecologists ("Nuclear Power? Yes Please", 23 February).

It was almost entirely owing to the exposure, during the transparency process of privatisation, that such large white elephants are wholly uneconomic to build. These economics have not changed: witness the catastrophic financial state of the one such power station under construction in western Europe, at Okilokutu, Finland.

Every serious economic study – the latest being by the management "gurus" McKinseys – has demonstrated that the most cost-effective, swiftest and most publicly acceptable energy policy option is always to ensure that we use the most energy-efficient artifacts, whether these be in buildings, transport or industrial plants.

Andrew Warren

Director, Association for the Conservation of Energy,

London N1

All the available sites for new reactors are on beaches. Whatever the background of their proponents new nuclear power stations can only be built if the designers are able to hold back the sea level rises expected over the next 100 years. And that depends to some small extent on how many nuclear power stations we can build.

John Valentine

London SW16

The things that really matter

Your letters column seems to be over-concerned with discussion of bankers, energy concerns, pollution, global warming and conflict. Long ago, I concluded that the human animal is basically greedy, lazy, aggressive and mostly non-cooperative, and also that Mother Nature has us in process for the seventh mass extinction.

If your correspondents can accept that we shall not solve the problems of boom and bust, deciding to get to grips with the energy deficit until it is too late, containing the waste problem and living sustainably and peacefully together, can we please empty the columns of all this hand-wringing and concentrate on really important matters, such as cricket.

Derek Brundish

Horsham, West Sussex

Quicksteps ruin 'Slumdog' dance

What is the point of the much-praised Bollywood dance sequence at the climax of Slumdog Millionaire if cinemagoers are prevented from seeing it properly?

At a local multiplex, the auditorium lights came on as soon as it began behind the occasional credits, bleaching out the picture and nudging the audience immediately to get up and get out. Peering at the pallid screen between the standing bodies, I felt badly cheated.

The manager claimed that it is health and safety policy that the lights should come up the moment the body of a film has ended, to allow the audience to ignore the credits and amble away without falling and breaking their necks. In the long history of cinemas, how many broken necks have led to this eureka moment?

Reviewers and judges of awards, whose opinions influence filmgoers, are invited to view films in protected circumstances. This is too good for ordinary filmgoers. We pay for our tickets but this does not exempt us from being treated with considerable contempt. Some in the audience prefer to remain seated, caught up in the mood as the credits roll, while others are impatient to leave.

But is the deliberate shattering of atmosphere now an inevitable element of filmgoing? Should you expect instant frustration instead of pure joy at a film's climax? Is filmus interruptus essential for practising safe multiplex?

Frank Lazarus

London N5

Art? There's nothing to it

I am writing with regard to your article entitled "The Art of Nothing" (27 February) concerning the minimalist exhibition at the Pompidou Centre.

What your reporter does not state is that the installation "Prana", by the artists Andrew Mitchell and Adam Bickerton (aka the Turquoise detectors), is presently being exhibited in the very rooms he mentions. This work, formed of rarefied Himalayan air, was first successfully shown at Tate Modern in 2005.

We do not normally advertise our work but prefer our audience to experience it through the act of "discovery". But we have broken our silence because we are concerned that our installation may be being contaminated by the other artists mentioned, and it might be being exploited in a catalogue that retails at £34.

We have instructed our intellectual property advisers to investigate.

Andrew Mitchell

London SE17

It's old stuff

Further to the correspondence on older fathers, my son used to boast to his pals that his father was older than his grandfather (my father). I don't think our children were embarrassed but rather enjoyed being different.

Sheila Barrow


Fashion folly

I'm not sure what planet your stylist Elisa Makin (The 50 best affordable fashion) lives on. Here on Planet Credit-Crunch, a T-shirt for £45, shorts for £98, a scarf for £50 and a bangle for £90 don't sound very affordable. The total of £283 is more than I'd spend on my entire summer wardrobe in a good year; probably nothing like that if I'm economising. Come on, get real.

Jane Powell

Buxton, Derbyshire

Curious, not scared

My late brother was born without a left hand ("Disabled presenter 'scares children' ", 24 February). He used to remark with amusement that the only embarrassment he had ever met came from other adults. Children asked two questions: "What happened to your hand?" and "Does it hurt?" Having received honest answers to both they were quite content. Never did he find a reaction of fear or distress from a child.

Monica Finan

Formby, Lancashire

Postal pest

Your correspondent complains of processions of white vans delivering parcels (letter, 28 February). What about if you are not in when they call? Then you receive a card indicating that you are free to collect the parcel from their depot. This can be up to 20 miles away, so generating additional traffic and transferring some of the cost of their competitive pricing to consumers. You can phone to re-arrange a delivery. This we have done and then spent more than a day awaiting for the rearranged delivery that never materialises.

Ian Kendall

Emsworth, Hampshire

Might be right

Sorry to turn all grammatically hard-line, but your sports writers seem to have lost sight of the "may"/ "might" distinction. Thus I read in Jason Burt's report of the Carling Cup Final (2 March) "United may have lost John O'Shea to a second yellow card". The meaning of this is that no one knows whether O'Shea was dismissed or not. In fact, I believe he remained on the pitch: only "might" will do.

D J Taylor