Letters: Perspectives on badgers

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Besieged by dear old Mr Brock

Terence Blacker believes "badgers are blessed with an appearance that causes the human heart to melt" (Opinion, 21 September). This is not a view shared by those that live in close proximity to dear old Mr Brock.

No, I am not a farmer, nor do I have any cattle that have been infected by bovine TB. I live in a suburb, but close to a badger sett, and have witnessed the destruction the badgers have caused to my property over a number of years.

The nightly foraging, leaving great divots on our lawn, and the discovery of excrement in our garden where the badgers had marked their territory, was somewhat annoying, but tolerable. The destruction of garden fencing that blocked their run became a more costly affair. The creation of new sett entrances and tunnelling in our garden, sometimes excavating a tonne of soil and undermining the foundations of our patio, greenhouse and the Grade II listed wall bordering Wollaton Park, is downright dangerous.

Current legislation protects the badgers, and Nottingham City Council (who own Wollaton Park), our local Conservative councillor, our Labour MP and Natural England have advised that the only recourse is for us to convert our garden into a fortress, with chain mesh fencing to a height of 1.5 metres above ground and 1 metre below ground around the entire perimeter of our garden (some 150 metres), all at our expense, to stop the badgers entering our property.

While I understand the sentiment expressed by Mr Blacker, let us not forget how destructive these creatures can be.

Stuart Allan, Nottingham

Cull panders to the faming lobby

Is there a law that no columnist can write a piece on wild animals without referring to Beatrix Potter? Terence Blacker defends the badger, but he just has to demonise an animal he has chosen to dislike, the fox. However, he is right that the proposed badger cull will cause fury.

For centuries we have treated wild animals with appalling brutality, and Nick Clegg's boasting about the Coalition's "modernising" agenda looks the sham that it is when his Government announces that farmers are to have free rein to slaughter badgers. This is nothing less than crass scapegoating to appease the powerful farming lobby. There will be a backlash as objectors boycott British beef and dairy products. See how they like that.

Penny Little, Great Haseley, Oxfordshire

Lib Dems find their voice

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Vince Cable's speech to the Liberal Democrats' conference will have done much to reassure longstanding and recent members of the Lib Dems why they joined the party.

The fact that his speech has been rubbished by many spokespersons in the corporate sector will only reinforce the impression that he is speaking for all those who demand that markets serve society, rather than the other way round.

As George Soros himself has acknowledged, the greatest enemy of the open society is unrestrained market capitalism. Now is the time for those who benefit from government largesse to pay their fair share. Effective regulation can reduce market volatility and provide a foundation for new forms of social capitalism.

Geoffrey Payne, London, W5

Your two correspondents from East Sussex (Letters, 22 September) criticise the Liberal Democrats for being in coalition with the Conservatives. But what were the alternatives after the general election in May?

A minority Conservative government and a quick dash to the polls again in October, like Harold Wilson in 1974?

Or perhaps a minority losers' coalition government with the Labour Party, implementing 20 per cent cuts in public expenditure instead of 25 per cent cuts? Would this mean that Labour had become a "nasty", "doctrinaire" or, heaven forbid, "uncaring" party too?

Any sceptic watching the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool will have witnessed thoughtful debates, a confident and mature performance by their party leader, Nick Clegg, and a succession of contributions from evidently fair-minded and competent Liberal Democrat ministers. I sense that this Coalition will stay the course.

Paul Wilder, London SE11

Exam boards in the market place

In Richard Garner's article "System of exam boards 'corrupt and diseased' " (17 September), he refers to chief examiners writing textbooks and exam boards claiming that "examiners must not make use of its [the exam board's] name for commercial purposes".

There are books on the market, such as in my own subject of law, which highlight that they are, for example, "exclusively endorsed" by a particular board and written by chief examiners. I'm not sure how such books are not using the exam board's name.

Moreover, the exam boards' websites use terms such as "the only text book endorsed by ..." or "Official Publication Partner". I have also seen such book endorsements in my colleagues' subjects. We feel it would be unwise not to purchase such books, given the pressure tutors are under in respect of student pass rates.

In addition, exam boards are also offering day courses for tutors where the "secrets" or "examiner's tips" for success will be revealed by the chief examiner. Some years ago courses held by exam boards would be free or at a minimum charge; nowadays, the fees for such courses appear to be significantly high.

This all seems to reflect the "market place" ethos used in the education system.

Peter Thompson, Tarleton, Lancashire

As a newly qualified Scottish teacher who married and moved south to teach in 1964, I was taken aback at my first interview at a further education college to be questioned on my favoured examination board. I had to confess that I wasn't aware that there were different boards, because in Scotland examinations were centralised and the same across the whole country.

Despite my lack of knowledge of these boards I did get a teaching post and soon learnt that, yes, you could choose to use different boards for different subjects, and the choice was usually based on which board would be likely to give the best results, and the difference in standard could be quite substantial.

And yes, as a team member I was once party to a decision to move from an examination board which set a high standard of question, and with which we had always been very satisfied, to a lesser-known one which set "Mickey Mouse" questions but which of course gave the students higher grades. It was wrong then and it is still wrong that standards are so varied.

I am not familiar with the International Baccalaureate, but from what I understand it has international recognition and is of a respected standard. Such an examination would seem to be the way forward to regain credibility for our students, who work so hard but who each year find the media questioning the standard of their examination results.

Jean Reynolds, Horndean, Hampshire

India's corrupt building trade

The problems with the Delhi Commonwealth Games symbolise the deep-rooted evils in the Indian construction industry. While there are gifted researchers and skilled design engineers in India, a large proportion of building works suffer from lack of supervision, ineffective building control and too little training of site workers. As a result, failures can occur on account of bad concreting that is concealed with cladding and not seen when the foundations are back-filled.

Corruption is widespread, with authorities responsible for planning, fire safety etc in busy cities such as Mumbai. A few years ago, the going figure for large projects was 100,000 rupees (£1,500, known colloquially as a peti or small box). Now it has gone up to 10,000,000 rupees, known as a khoka or large chest.

In an odd way, the corruption has become democratic or arranged in a pecking order. One enters a government building and pays the man at the door first and then the liftman, followed by the doorman on the particular floor, the receptionist, filing clerk etc, before one reaches the recipient of the "chest". A contractor once used the stairs and not the lift, but he was made to pay the liftman all the same, since no one would dare to break the chain and risk any snitching.

In the UK, although the construction industry and the regulatory bodies appear to be clean, one can foresee the ill-effects in the long term arising from falling standards of technological education and increasingly ineffective site supervision. This could be worsened by fast-track design-and-build contracts, which tend to jeopardise the essential early-stage efforts in planning and design. Such a trend has to be arrested.

Satish Desai, South Croydon, Surrey

Development aid really is working

Abandoning the Millennium Development Goals just because they are off-track is a perverse and dangerous logic ("World leaders warned that approach to African aid needs a total rethink", 20 September).

Remarkable progress has been made in reducing poverty in recent years – 33 million more children go to school now than a decade ago, 10,000 fewer children under the age of five die each day now than in 1990 and, on present trends, 920 million people will be living in extreme poverty in 2015, half the number in 1990. Aid has played a crucial role in bringing about these successes, along with debt relief and leadership in developing countries. No one is suggesting that aid alone is the answer, but good quality, effective aid which acts as a catalyst for growth and development is a vital part of the solution.

World leaders meeting this week in New York must redouble efforts to meet all the goals. Governments must deliver on the aid money they promised and agree a comprehensive and co-ordinated rescue package to get all MDGs back on track.

Barbara Stocking, Chief Executive, Oxfam, Oxford

Not against religion

I am writing to reject the accusation made by Richard Ingrams (18 September) that those supporting the Protest the Pope campaign are "anti-religion". The British Humanist Association, one of the founders of the campaign and the biggest secularist charity in the UK, works to promote equality for all, religious and non-religious alike. The Protest the Pope campaign would not have protested against the Pope if it had been a pastoral rather than state visit, and the campaign was supported by a large number of people from different backgrounds.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, British Humanist Association, London WC1

I must respond to Bernard O'Connor's claim (letter, 20 September), in relation to the papal visit, that the media is obsessed with child abuse within the Catholic Church. Had Fr O'Connor been a victim of abuse in the 1950s, when it was not spoken of, he would have found some comfort in abuse coming out into the open. The more discussion there is on this difficult topic, the less opportunity there is for future abuse.

David Barry, Bexhill-on-Sea, east S ussex

RAF pilots over Korea

David Gunn (letter, 20 September) states that the "RAF's limitations were already evident in Korea, the air war of which had to be entirely fought by the US and Royal Navies from carriers".

There was little RAF involvement in air fighting over Korea, partly because the Gloster Meteor, the RAF's principal day fighter of the time, flown over Korea by No 77 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, was outclassed by the North Koreans' MiG-15s. However, the news that the war was entirely fought by naval aircraft will come as a surprise to the RAF pilots who flew the F-86 Sabre with USAF squadrons, shooting down several MiGs and gaining useful experience for the introduction of the F-86 Sabre to Fighter Command at the end of 1952.

When Iraq threatened war in 1991, RAF fighters were in Kuwait within 48 hours of the order to move. The Royal Navy's nearest fighters, aboard HMS Victorious east of Singapore, arrived a week later.

Peter Elliott, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Movie days on the television

Ben Walsh is quite right to despair at the feature film dross which clutters our television screens ("Why can't we have arthouse films on TV?", 20 September). However, I think he must try harder.

Film Four has recently shown several films by the Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu, including his first talkie, The Only Son. They seem to be on a brief run of Ingmar Bergman films at the moment – Winter Light is on this week, if you can cope with all that overpowering Nordic bleakness.

There appears to be a Thursday morning slot for this sort of stuff, with absolutely no publicity at all, other than a microscopic entry in the Radio Times. My problem is, I have never been able to watch daytime television or movies without a tremendous feeling of guilt – I feel I should be doing something useful instead of lolling about on the sofa. When I get to the old folks home, maybe . . .

Arthur Taylor, Oldham, Lancashire

Village verdict on Trident

Those who support the replacement of Trident are understandably concerned about reopening the fundamental debate about whether it is right for us to retain such a weapons system. They fear that the public might come up with the "wrong" decision.

In the village where I live we held a public debate on the future of Trident in January 2007. The main speakers were Michael Meacher MP, Bruce Kent from CND, our local MP, Mark Harper (now a minister) and Dr Lee Willett, a defence and weapons analyst.

It generated great public interest; the village hall was packed. A gripping, informative and passionately argued debate ensued. The outcome was that 125 people voted against renewing Trident, 15 voted in favour of retaining it and 10 people abstained.

The decision on Trident is a matter of enormous strategic, financial, and moral importance. Can't the British public be trusted to play a key part in this process?

David Slinger, Highnam, Gloucestershire

Which god are you, then?

Michael Haigh (letter, 22 September) wonders if God "descending from a cloud ... bathed in dazzling light" would provide evidence that would change the minds of atheists. Well, not really.

It would simply be evidence for a being descending from a cloud etc. One would then have to consider whether this phenomenon was a god and, if so, which sort of god it was and whether it was any of the gods currently on offer. It would require even further evidence that it was the sort of god that Mr Haigh would seem to be keen on. Perhaps it would be a god that nobody has yet thought of.

I'm not sure how one goes about establishing the bona fides of gods. Of course, most theists just accept the god they are indoctrinated with as children.

David Hooley, Newmarket, Suffolk

Licensing for live performance

Feargal Sharkey ("The act killing live music", 20 September) focuses on the licensing problems that musicians are faced with when dealing with live performances.

However the same ramifications for other live performers are not addressed by him or Lord Clement-Jones's Live Music Bill. Performance poets, dance companies and community theatre groups could also benefit from a change in the licensing laws. The Government should look to support all small-scale live entertainments, not just those championed by UK Music.

Keith Arrowsmith, IP/Media Partner, Ralli Solicitors, Manchester

Sticks and stones

I've never got over being bullied and baited at school, but I still say that people like Clare Balding should lighten up (letter, 22 September). "Dyke on a bike" was rather witty. Those who say that name-calling is the first step towards violence remind me of hysterical Victorians with their "fatal glass of beer" and more recent PC hysterics with their "Page 3 is the first step to rape" and "Immigration controls are the first step to Auschwitz."

Mark Taha, London SE26

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