Sir: I wonder whether others shared my frustration in reading the coverage of medical research (12 April). Splashed across the first three pages, complete with images of a mouse and a fruit fly, was a major report on the revolution in cancer treatment emerging from research on animals.
Yet on page 9 John von Radowitz ("Universities accused of cruel animal tests") reported the latest trumped-up campaign against medical research by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (Buav).
The economic cost of illegal drug use in the UK is estimated to be as high as £16bn a year. The impact of addiction on the lives of victims, their families and social contacts is devastating.
Yet Buav describes world-leading research aimed at understanding addiction and how to prevent or treat it as "cruel and unnecessary" and "a complete waste of time".
This parody of important medical research is typical of Buav's tactics. Moreover, they have grossly distorted information they received from the Medical Research Council (MRC) under a Freedom of Information request. We informed Buav that the MRC has provided a total of £1.6m over five years to one university for research on addictive drugs. The £10n figure for expenditure over a decade is a Buav invention.
Buav suggests such research on addiction should stop and the money be diverted to "improving drug rehabilitation centres and supporting families dealing with drug abuse".
Would they, then, say the funds for research leading to that revolution in cancer treatment should have been spent on more hospices and better bereavement counselling?
PROFESSOR COLIN BLAKEMORE
CHIEF EXECUTIVE, MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL, LONDON W1
Feelings run high on abortion issue
Sir: Your article on abortion rightly highlights the pressure the religious-right exerts on politics in America ("Issue that goes to the heart of our differences with America", 16 April).
But things are just as bad closer to home. Under pressure from the Church, Malta, Poland, Ireland and (until now) Portugal all banned abortion. Right across Europe, women's rights are being challenged in ways which have not been seen in America for years. Even the chair of the European Parliament's Women's Rights Committee is anti-abortion.
It may be easy to attack Bush and his ilk, but women in Europe need our support too, now more than ever.
MARY HONEYBALL MEP
(LABOUR, LONDON) BRUSSELS
Sir: I think it may be too easy to attribute opposition to abortion to religion. I am opposed to abortion on what I think of as human and social grounds. However it is wrapped up, abortion is the killing of a human and our attitude to abortion influences society's attitude to the killing of other less foetal humans.
A women's right to do what she wishes with her body is a restricted right as most (all?) rights are. She has a responsibility for the foetus and that responsibility obviously includes caring for it. not killing it ("it" because the foetus sex is undetermined).
The woman is a member of society and, as we all are, responsible to and for that society. If we are to encourage a high regard for humans whatever their limitations, creed, colour, sex, whatever, I suggest that regard begins with our respect for the unborn. Religion may well be a cover for these human concerns, as in many other matters, but is not necessarily the cause.
Sir: Dr James Gerrard refuses to refer patients requesting abortion because he doesn't like it, thereby condemning the patient to having to psych herself up to presenting her problem all over again.
As a GP for more than 30 years, I was often faced with such requests, and I don't like abortion either. But when I was training, we were brought up to understand that the medical needs of the patient were paramount, so I would refer them for that reason.
In today's medical atmosphere in this country, patients needs are at the bottom of the pile and doctors can have the luxury to indulge their own preferences.
DR TIM LAWSON
Sir: James Gerrard is right; it is a personal choice, but it isn't his.
NEWTOWN, NEW SOUTH WALES
Sir: I was surprised to read in the article that the quote highlighted from the views of Kate Guthrie was, "I don't sit in judgement".
Given that she judges the majority of doctors who refuse to perform abortions as naive, middle-class people, who simply "pick and choose" which aspects of medicine they perform, and who are ignorant of life on inner-city estates, I do not believe, "I don't sit in judgement", summarises her opinions.
ST ALBANS, HERTFORDSHIRES
Electric vehicles suit the cities
Sir: I would like to address the criticism of Johann Hari's excellent article "Big Oil's vendetta against the electric car" (5 April) in several recent letters.
As the Energy Saving Trust says on its website: "Electric vehicles use energy far more efficiently than internal combustion engine vehicles so even if the electricity is sourced from fossil-fuel power stations, the carbon and particulate emissions remain significantly less than internal combustion engines."
This is so even after electricity transmission losses have been taken into account. A large increase in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) in use would not require an increase in the capacity of the grid. This is because they would be mostly charged at night (using off-peak electricity), when the grid has a very high level of spare capacity.
It is true that today's commercially available EVs are not capable of travelling from London to Edinburgh on a single charge. But such journeys are exceptional. EVs are more than adequate for most people's needs, as demonstrated by the rapid rise in EV ownership in London.
CAMPAIGN FOR BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES, LONDON EC4
More key workers getting homes
Sir: Your article on housing affordability (13 April) fails to mention that almost 25,000 key workers, including 9,000 health sector workers, have been helped on to the housing ladder, since 2001, through the Government's shared-equity and shared-ownership schemes.
This has meant more key workers have been able to stay in crucial front-line jobs. Six out of 10 key workers surveyed said our schemes have helped them continue in their chosen professions.
But, we need to build more homes across the board and unfortunately there is still continued opposition to increased housing in many areas. We have already increased housebuilding from 130,000 a year in 1997 to more than 180,000, but we need to go further to ease pressures on first-time buyers.
YVETTE COOPER MP
HOUSING MINISTER, LONDON SW1
Citizenship rules are appalling
Sir, I am astonished by the rules governing British citizenship for UK nationals born abroad.
If, like me, you were born outside the UK, you need to prove that your father is a UK citizen to gain UK nationality. It does not matter what nationality your mother is because the right to UK nationality passes only through the male line.
This affected me several years ago and it took me nearly three years to gather the evidence to prove I was a British. I find appalling, in a UK which allegedly has sexual equality, this rule which effectively states that a woman carrying a child for nine months has no claim on her child's nationality other than through her partner's sperm.
GAVIN DE VINE
Author backs claim about Dresden dead
Sir: Robert Hanks (Opinion, 16 April) suggests David Irving's use of a figure of 135,000 dead in the February 1945 destruction of Dresden was unscrupulous, and helps demolish his "claims to historical authority".
Mr Hanks should note that in his recent book Among the Dead Cities, the author A C Grayling, by no means sympathetic to Mr Irving, nonetheless records that "widely divergent figures are given for the dead in the Dresden raid, from 25,000 to 150,000".
He adds: "I give the most conservative figure, though the number of unrecognisable bodies, and the number of refugees, probably means that the figure should be higher."
The crass and ugly truth about zoos
Sir: I have enjoyed your article about zoos (9 April) and those who challenge the ideology of displaying captive animals. The case against zoos made by animal rights protesters seems self-evident: anyone with a morsel of empathy can see these animals are unhappy.
But your articles also highlight the dangers for people that are posed by zoos, which reinforce our false sense that nature can exist harmoniously with human culture despite the exploitation that characterises our lifestyle.
Our ecological sensibilities are heavily attenuated by the fiercely seductive claims of modern culture, which necessarily oppose our attention to the importance of nature. We are destroying habitats voraciously; this is why animals are suffering.
Zoos feature a few token remnants of the animal kingdom, persuading us thus to indulge our imperial conceit that the other species with whom we share the planet are alive and well, and that we are benevolent masters of the natural world.
The true significance of zoos is crass and ugly, worlds away from zookeepers' conceits that spectators establish meaningful connection with the animals as they stroll past cages. Zoos exemplify the chauvinistic celebration of our power to capture animals and display them in a way convenient for us, however unfortunate it may be for the prisoners.
Zoo visitors are induced to believe that the animals' natural habitats are not an important part of who they are. How can this possibly heighten people's awareness of the ecological crisis destroying animals' worlds?
ATLANTA, GEORGIA, USA
Pssst! Want to buy an 'Indy' book?
Sir: I am a police community support officer and was out on my beat, in uniform, when I decided to buy The Independent "Banned" book to read on my break. The newsagents shall remain anonymous to protect them from humiliating fallout, but they are in the High Peak.
Me: "Do you sell the banned books in The Independent?"
Newsagent One: "No, we don't sell muck like that, mate. Try up the road; they may have them."
Managing not to guffaw in his face I went to the next newsagent.
Me: "Do you sell the banned books in The Independent?"
Newsagent Two: "No, we sell Men Only, Razzle, Mayfair that kind of stuff, but no proper porn stuff though. We're not allowed."
Eventually after my laughter had died down and my equilibrium had returned I successfully bought one from the news-agent on High Street. What a guilt-ridden society we live in.
Film world record
Sir: Your article on the sequel to Bunuel's classic ("Belle de Jour is revisited, but without Deneuve", 13 April) omits the most remarkable fact: the director, Manoel de Oliveira, has the longest career in cinema history, having made his first film in 1931. He is still working at 98.
Sir: Dick Toy (letter, 14 April) writes "other eminent Romans dwelling in what is now Tunisia (the emperor Septimius Severus , for instance) ...". I hope his ethnology is better than his geography; Septimius Severus came from Leptis Magna, which is in Libya.
Sir: You report on how the former head of the Accident Group was about to enjoy a party on his Spanish yacht when a British tax official served him with a £4.1m writ ("Boss who sacked staff by text is killed in car accident", 11 April). This hardly squares with the caricature of HM Revenue & Customs drawn on the same day by columnist Mark Steel portraying this country's tax regulator as an ineffective and wealth-fawning pushover ("Who wants to be a billionaire?"). Sometimes, facts can mess up a good yarn.
Left, not right
Sir: Don Imus is a liberal, aka left-winger, aka Democrat (article, 14 April), and please don't compare him to right-wing broadcasters. Your quote from Michael Savage is interesting. He has never used such language on his radio show. Savage is indeed conservative but that includes a responsibility toward the environment among other things.
SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI, USA
Sir: I've been an Independent reader from your first issue, and only Bruce Anderson's more extreme right-wingery ever made me wonder whether to move elsewhere. Now (16 April), all is forgiven. To suggest, without a discernible hint of irony, that John Bolton should succeed Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank is political satire of the highest order.
Sir: Albert Einstein said: "If we lose the bees, mankind will have four years left." How worrying; Des Browne could be going any time, Blair is going in months and Bush's last term is almost up. I never thought I'd say this but, hang on in there Gordon.
Sir: Why have I been eating out-of-date crisps for so long? The label, says, "Cooked in pure sunflower oil for over 25 years".
Sir: Does anyone know the purpose of gates labelled "This gate must remain shut at all times"? Do these farmers lack fencing?