Letters: Perspectives on culling badgers

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Science looked at the problems

Your article, "Spelman fires starting gun on badger cull", (19 July) contributes to the continuing misreporting of the badgers-and-cattle TB problem.

Lord Krebs's report in 1997 was far from being the first scientific exploration of the badger-TB link. The policy of badger culling to control cattle TB had started as long ago as 1975, and scientific reports on the issue were written by Lord Zuckerman in 1981 and by the Dunnet Committee in 1986.

Culling was then suspended when the Krebs enquiry was set up, and it was he who recommended a field trial to determine the merits of culling.

But it was Professor John Bourne of Bristol University who led the Independent Scientific Group on cattle TB, the 10-year enquiry that managed the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, and it was this that yielded all the data we have on the effects of culling and the scientific considerations surrounding an effective policy, considerations that Caroline Spelman appears to have totally ignored.

John McInerney, Member, Dunnet Committee and Independent Scientific Group, Tiverton, Devon

A boycott is the only option

It is outrageous that David Cameron's Government is caving in to farmer's demands for a badger cull. This cull is not science-led as claimed by the Government, but is led by ignorant farmers who seek to make the badger a scapegoat for their own bad husbandry.

What gives farmers the right to destroy our badgers? British wildlife belongs to us all. I hope people who feel the same way as I do over this wicked and cruel slaughter of our badgers will boycott all British beef and dairy products.

It is not easy to shoot a badger because of their thick skulls and their habit of hugging the ground.

Horrific wounding will lead to slow and agonising deaths from infection, and I predict a terrible backlash from the public because this needless killing will not make any difference to TB in cattle.

I find it hard to believe any government could be so wilfully cruel and stupid, even this one.

Helen Weeks, West Coker, Somerset

Killing just to appease farmers

As the Government seems determined to ignore public opinion and scientific evidence and impose a vicious badger cull to appease the powerful farming lobby, those who are utterly dismayed by this barbaric proposal have a simple but effective weapon with which to fight back.

A boycott of British dairy and beef products is the only option. Opinion polls reveal that many millions of people oppose the cull, and translated into potential losses in revenue for farmers, that would be a serious counter-attack.

The blinkered and self-serving farming community need to realise that there are plenty of alternatives to their products, and as for the Government, one would have thought they were in enough trouble already, without plunging their popularity and credibility further into the abyss with this unspeakably cruel plan.

Penny Little, Great Haseley, Oxfordshire

Was it sincere or was it PR?

The suggestion is being made that Murdoch and his organisation are, in some way, on the run. I believe everything we're looking at is public relations, however weird some of it may seem.

Murdoch talking about his mum and dad; James Murdoch declaring his personal feelings about what's happened; Brooks' solicitor in his statement.

But look at John Yates's straight-to-the-camera resignation performance,. Not a speech, not a man making a dignified exit from the stage but a performance.

Was that his idea? Or some other genius. "You must look directly at the camera, otherwise you'll look guilty. Whatever you do, perform. Whatever you do, look sincere."

I believe what we're watching is a co-ordinated effort to humanise News Corp and to redirect the spotlight on the police because throwing mud and getting it to stick is what News International are about. I think it'll work if we let it.

Phil Ince, London E8

Some years ago, after the death of my infant son, I contacted several publications and organisations seeking a platform for a cot-death awareness campaign.

The main visual image of the campaign (which I was determined would be hard- hitting) was a photograph of my son taken by the pathologist two days after his death. It was not a gory photograph. No incision had yet been made. He looked peaceful, lying naked on a white table, measuring ruler at his side and his little fists clenched.

But it was a sad and disturbing image, and one I felt would undoubtedly shock people into educating themselves about cot death and learning the preventative measures that can be taken to lower the risk of it.

Of the many publications that I contacted, the only one not to give me the widest of berths, was The Sun. A reporter rang me to say that her boss, Rebekah Brooks (or Wade as she was then), was interested in publishing the photograph and in helping in my attempts to shock parents into facing the issue of cot death.

Ultimately the story never ran. I was subsequently contacted by The Sun to say that Rebekah had had second thoughts about being associated with my campaign, concerned at the potential backlash that publishing a photo of a dead child (even with his mother's permission) could incur against the paper.

At the time I was bitterly disappointed. I am now glad that the image was never released because I would not want my family to see it.

But I think my story demonstrates that there clearly was once a line of decency that the press were reluctant to cross. And also that Rebekah may have grown less cautious over the years.

Lora Bishop, Eastbourne, East Sussex

Your leading article (20 July) correctly panned the performance of the Culture Select Committee in questioning NI management. Only Tom Watson pursued the major issue for which management holds the entire responsibility in this affair; that is corporate governance.

While he established that Rupert Murdoch seemed not to have been informed about much - and seemed not to have been interested in knowing - Watson (and the Select Committee) failed to explore what measures were in place at NoW (and in NI generally) at the time of the illegal activities, and what measures have been put in place since, to ensure that all staff employed in news-gathering adhere to appropriate ethical standards.

While hacking indicates a possible failure of management, NI could be forgiven if they had reviewed their governance processes promptly and put in place effective measures to ensure that ethical standards were set, disseminated to staff, embedded and subsequent adherence monitored.

Since NI management did not mention any of these activities we might infer that there was no attempt to assure ethical standards at NI either before or after the prosecution of Mulcaire and Goodman.

Daniel O'Leary, Sawston, Cambridge

The focus on News International, phone hacking and journalism in general forces me to raise the core subject which surely drives all of them, and that is what is referred to as "public interest". That the term is incomplete and often misused is also a significant element of the subject.

The point that needs to be made is that news stories are by their very nature related to public interest, But the differentiation needs to be made about whether subjects are in the public interest as opposed to being of public interest.

Elements of any population will have interest in any"'news" that is available, no matter how sordid or inappropriate, so being of public interest cannot be justification in itself to cover a particular story. If stories are in the public interest the justification is clear and valid.

So the crucial decision that has to be made is which area of "justification" a potential news story/investigation falls into; the failure of various media outlets to make that decision correctly appears to be the main reason why actions have allowed stories to be covered and the related investigation work done.

Laurence Williams, Thetford, Norfolk

It was not that long ago that progressive media pundits and newspapers were treating Wikileaks as some kind of asset to democracy, and Julian Assange as some kind of hero.

So the hacking for newsworthy items is back in the news. Now we are fuming over the damage done by the publishing of criminally obtained secret documents. Only this time it's Rupert Murdoch's people who've done it. And all hell has broken loose.

If Assange was a hero, why isn't Murdoch? And if Murdoch is to be universally reviled, why not Assange? And, while we're asking questions, has anyone noticed that both Murdoch and Assange are Australians? Are there any conspiracy theorists out there who could come up with an explanation? Also, what about the leaked details of the MPs' expenses?

Dr F R Baigel, Bury, Lancashire

Perhaps we should not be surprised that there are people like the Murdochs who refused to accept the evidence of what happened in their corporation until it proved overwhelming.

Their attitude, I would suggest, springs from motives such as the vanity of men who love to think they are somehow above the law and know better than us minions. The only guilt and shame they suffer is the guilt and shame of being caught out.

They even bolster their egoism by claiming to be putting things right after issuing crocodile tears and feeble excuses. Surely there comes a time when their refusal to acknowledge the wrongdoing committed directly in their name passes from cowardice to moral complicity?

Peter Gough, Coventry

Only one thing became clear during the questioning of the Murdochs: the lamentable ineptitiude of the questioners.

Bernard O'Sullivan, London SW8

The southern European countries are in financial meltdown, with a huge impact on the euro and the UK economy. We have huge problems from cuts, the US is facing a serious degradation of its credit rating while the politicians argue and millions starve in Africa.

So, why are we worrying about phone hacking? This is a media fest of limited value. How long before this will will vanish: One year? Two?

Oh, by the way, did I mention that there's lots of people starving in Africa. Why can't we move on or is the news set by the insiders?

Tim Brook, Bristol

Volunteer as coastguards

So, the Armed Forces are to be staffed by part-timers. There's a lack of joined-up thinking here.

The Government is closing down as much of the coastguard service as it can. It is the ideal sort of service that could be run by volunteers, the existing stations manned almost free, say, young retirees with good sight, who could operate radar sets, man telephones and keep a check on shipping.

In the last war, much of the the radio interception service was run by volunteers, amateur radio operators who listened for German military wireless traffic for an hour or two every night, rather than fire-watching, and providing traffic for Bletchley code-breakers to work on.

Indeed, many amateurs were better than Post Office professional staff, because they were used to receiving weak signals and making sense of them.

Charles Norrie, London N1

Supermarkets are taking over

I very much hope the amendments to the Localism Bill will go through. Although our Conservative MP is supportive of small shops, our local, mostly Tory, council seems hell bent on destroying the town centre through its plans for a new "retail quarter" to be built away from the main shops.

We already have four supermarkets of varying sizes in and around the city, as well as many empty shops, and it is obvious to most people that what is needed is the regeneration of the existing centre, not more new shops.

About 12,000 people signed a petition against the proposals (which include yet another supermarket) but the wishes of the local community have been ignored. Our council is determined to go ahead. The interests of small retailers and an emphasis on the character of a local development do not, apparently, feature in their scheme at all.

Ann Edwards, Hereford

There are Scots and other Scots

Dominic Lawson has stirred the Scots (letters, 13, 14 July). But I tend to agree with him that the cultural differences are minimal.

For those Scots who disagree, may I ask which Scots they are referring to? The Edinburgh lawyer or surgeon, the Glasgow ned, the Highland crofter, the Borders farmer or even the Shetlander (who sees many Scots as "rapacious landlords")?

And which Englishmen are they so different from? The braying public school type, the Home Counties suburbanite, the urban denizen of one of the edgier parts of our major cities, the Liverpool scally, the uplands farmer?

I could go on. Both countries are socially diverse, but both linked by far more than separates them (in my English case, links include a Scottish wife) and both share the one island and much history. Scots should embrace their diversity, and England's, within the whole.

Jonathan Callaway, London SW

Dangeer lies in those PFIs

After Southern Cross had built up the asset of owning its premises, bought from the proceeds of taxpayer funds for caring for the old, it fell victim to a predatory takeover, which sold those assets in leaseback deals.

The rental aspect proved unsustainable so those previous funds from the taxpayer for care of the elderly, effectively funded a windfall of profits to financial predators alone. Neither has the overall system provided unimpeachable standards of care for those vulnerable people, if the abuses reported and consequent closure of other institutions is any indicator.

Yet on the same day, David Cameron issued a White Paper promoting an expansion of private companies supplying similar public services paid for by the taxpayer, without a jot of the scheme being included in any manifesto to give it any mandate.

After the example of arrogant hubris in insisting on employing Andy Coulson, the White Paper would seem as out of touch with reality or good sense as any of the attempts at "reform" issuing from this Eton-based cabinet.

M J Benning, Wellington, Somerset

Talk, then face the music

On the face of it, David Lister is right to ask why so few conductors seem willing to turn round and talk to their audience, but it may that conducting music and compèring use different sides of the brain (Opinion, 16 July). Perhaps this could be the subject of someone's PhD?

I conduct the Nottingham Concert Band, which celebrated its 20th anniversary by commissioning Philip Sparke to compose A Nottingham Festival, and we gave its première performance last Saturday evening.

Having a compère to provide the links between pieces helped keep my mind clear to conduct the music.

Robert Parker, West Bridgford, Nottingham

Game ladies

Japan's Ladies/Women won the football World Cup in style (report, 18 July). But bear a thought for England who failed miserably on penalties at the quarter-final stage but who shone when they outclassed Japan in their crucial group match. Japan were a delight to watch; short in stature but incredibly fleet of foot.

Nicholas E Gough, Swindon, Wiltshire

Only wrong

People and writers commonly misplace the qualifier "only". Thus, the headline "The Palestinians only have one option now" relating to Adrian Hamilton's interesting piece (Viewspaper, 14 July) should have read, "The Palestinians have only one option now".

John Elder, Chepstow, Monmouthshire

Cliché corner

I suggest that we forthwith ban all cliches, except the ones that punch above their weight.

Dr Tom Weinberger, Jerusalem, Israel

Enough is enough! I'm all clichéd-out! (letters, 18 July)

Keith O'Neill, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Enough already! End of!

Graham Leach, Ilford, Essex