Letters: Responsible pet ownership

Microchipping is part of responsible pet ownership
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The Independent Online

Sir: I suppose I am one of those "apostles of dog-chipping" (or more generally of pet-chipping) about whom Deborah Orr speaks so dismissively ("Buy yourself a dog and feel the heavy hand of the pet industry upon you", 29 December).

The peace of mind it offers is genuine; our local dog wardens and local RSPCA collection officers can provide her with all the examples she could handle of stray animals reunited with owners through their microchips. If the chipped cat to which she refers has not yet been reunited with its owner, this shows only that a microchip is but one link in a complex chain, one which includes vet scanning policies, local councils' policies about scanning animals found dead in the road, and public awareness of microchips. Chips don't send out radio signals; like barcodes, they need to be scanned to be read.

Microchipping is part of responsible pet ownership. Collars, unlike microchips, can be removed. if Ms Orr's dog goes missing and loses its collar, local council resources have to be spent keeping the dog. If its owner cannot be found, it will either be rehomed or disposed of. If it gets injured or ill, resources from charities such as the RSPCA and Dogs Trust will have to be spent paying for veterinary care and trying to rehome it.

Ms Orr can get her dog chipped for 10 by many local councils or branches of the RSPCA; her vet is likely to charge her 25 or so. This brings genuinely grounded peace of mind for those who actually care about their pets enough to want that, and to fail to chip a pet is irresponsible, potentially to impose an unfair financial burden on local councils and charities.

Katherine Morris

Fellow in Philosophy, Mansfield College, Microchipping Co-ordinator, RSPCA Oxfordshire

Truth about the New Year revelry

Sir: It is 3.40am on New Year's Day and I have just arrived home from Waterloo. I had met my nephew and friends to watch the fireworks and enjoy the party atmosphere. The fireworks were spectacular but what would have been a good night out was marred by the travel arrangements at Waterloo station.

I realise it is necessary to impose restrictions and control because the crowds are so huge and lively but why was it necessary for the only entrance to Waterloo station to be way down the road past the Old Vic?

Everyone was herded down the road to be pushed and shoved by the rude, ignorant and selfish among the crowd who were determined to get to the front whatever the cost, causing fights to erupt.

Surely some of the top entrances to the station could have been opened and, even if people were allowed through in single file with police control, it would have thinned the crowd more quickly and avoided the crush.

I am appalled at the inconsideration of some people. In front of us was a man trying to support his wife who was having a panic attack, and people were practically knocking them down in an effort to get past.

Being a first-aider, my nephew tried to help the man support his wife and calm her. She collapsed and I caught her but we struggled to reach the side of the road away from the crowds so she could recover.

I could not believe the rude and abusive behaviour we experienced. Fortunately, we alerted a policeman who went for a paramedic.

She was OK but my nephew had a painfully trampled leg, and both of us had our mobile phones stolen from our jacket pockets while we were distracted. It will be the last time I will attend this event.

Jennifer Plant

London N12

Memorising spelling benefits no one

Sir: Ray Luff's letter (27 December) betrays an unfortunate confusion between languages and writing systems.

Gender, case, and other such grammatical systems are part of language, acquired by children before they learn to read and write. Spelling, on the other hand, is merely part of the writing system. You can speak English perfectly well without being able to spell it correctly. (Indeed, recent research suggests that some dyslexics may excel at entrepreneurship.)

It benefits no one that English-speaking children have to memorise thousands of inconsistent and illogical spellings. Losing the difference between "break" and "brake" or writing the past tense of "read" differently from the present tense would not lead to the balkanisation of English, but rather to an improvement for everyone.

John Wells

Emeritus Professor of Phonetics, University College, London

Sir: If the spelling reformers were to have their way with the English language, what would happen to that joy and delight, the cryptic crossword? English as she is spelt provides a wealth of crypticity unavailable to languages with simpler spelling.


Alness, Highland

German experience with wind-power

Sir: Kevin Ramsey (letter, 19 December) is too optimistic about the potential for wind-power as a preferred source of electricity in the UK. The practical experience of Germany tells us that wind-power on its own cannot fill the gap left by the closure of the UK's existing nuclear power plants in the next 15 years.

The Wind Report 2005, paints a remarkably candid picture of their experience for that year. In 2005, the 7,000 MW of wind-farm capacity operated by E.ON Netz in Germany averaged only 1,300MW of output over the whole year, and on one day in May of that year could manage only a measly 8MW.

Wind-power can provide extra capacity but it cannot be a substitute for conventional power-plants (fossil fuel and nuclear). It is essential for the stability of the national grid and the avoidance of power black-outs that generator output be kept in line with demand.

This leaves governments with a stark choice; they can either opt for more fossil-fuel-powered plants and say goodbye to any credible attempt at reducing carbon emissions, or start a new programme of nuclear power stations and face political unpopularity.

I'm with James Lovelock and favour the latter; I fear the Government will bottle the decision and continue with replacement fossil-fuel plants.

Professor R Guy Woolley

Thurgarton, Nottingham

Sir: Since when has protecting your local environment from industrial degradation been a bad thing ("Nimbyism blocking local wind farms", report, 1 January). The term "nimbyism" has to be one of the most ill-thought, asinine terms ever invented.

Of course people in rural areas such as the uplands of Wales and the islands of Scotland want to preserve the natural environment and not see it used as a dumping-ground for these land-hungry, technologically inefficient power plants, producing insignificant amounts of expensive electricity.

The most outrageous myth which again was propounded in the article from the wind energy spokesman that wind farms will play an important role in tackling climate change, is such a self-evident lie that even the most gullible urban "green" would feel embarrassed trotting that one out.

Wind farms are about one thing. Profits. Profits for the often foreign-owned energy corporations and the local landowners.

Given the burgeoning world population and the explosion in production and materialism in places such as China and India, expecting wind-farms in the UK, or even internationally, to reduce CO2 emissions is like emptying the Thames with a teaspoon: pointless.

John Appleby

Corwen, North Wales

Pakistan needs a true democracy

Sir: I agree with Tariq Ali (report, 31 December). I have every sympathy with the Bhutto family, and the people of Pakistan, but it is totally undemocratic that Benazir Bhutto's teenage son should be anointed PPP leader after her brutal assassination.

The people of Pakistan are mature enough to embrace true democracy. The end of the British Raj 60 years ago does not translate India and Pakistan into the private fiefdoms of the Gandhi and Bhutto families. The 160 million Pakistanis are surely capable of finding a suitable candidate to govern them without relying seemingly in perpetuity on one family to rule them. On that basis alone, they might as well stick with General Pervez Musharraf. At least he breaks the Bhutto monoply on power.

Dominic Shelmerdine

London SW7

Police should take action on pay

Sir: Since the police went on strike in 1919, there have been at least four Commissions, Desborough, Oaksey, Edmund Davies and Willink. All made recommendations on police procedures and conditions that were implemented immediately and still exist.

The recommendation that set up a formula to keep police pay abreast with the cost of living has been repeatedly broken over at least 80 years by governments (except that of Maggie Thatcher). The present Home Secretary is just the latest politician to break the commitment to police they have agreed to.

The federated ranks will have to take industrial action to get the attention of government. Above that, too many careers are involved. Talk, talk, does not work; only action will concentrate minds.

William Hayburn

East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire

No legitimacy for the sex industry

Sir: Douglas Fox's defence of his legitimate sex industry (letter, 31 December) speaks more of his fear of losing his livelihood if Harriet Harman's plans come to fruition than of his real understanding of his workers' motives.

It may appear that many women, as he puts it, choose to work in this enterprising, financially rewarding, flexible industry, but I am sure that a session with a half-decent therapist would reveal something quite disturbing about why women, particularly, would willingly choose to put aside the most personal emotion of sexual intimacy to be brutishly penetrated many times a day by overweight, deficient, often perverted and drunk, strange men.

This is the most unnatural of activities, and is a form of self-abuse that should never be legitimised. That Sweden has a low base of sex workers is due surely to the country's decent sex education, informed, well-practised sexual equality and a welfare system which addresses social welfare generously and intelligently.

Something in the British psyche has reduced our welfare system to "the diligent rich being compelled to give to the feckless poor", fostering mean-spirited and judgemental division and resentment.

Unless we can change this attitude, British life will continue to have a nasty underbelly of which a thriving, abusive sex industry is just one example.

The numbers of children incarcerated and brutalised in our prisons is another.

Sheila Kinsella


Flaw in system for valuing carbon

Sir: The Government's new system for valuing carbon, described by Jim Fitzpatrick, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Transport (letter, 22 December), has a huge flaw. It assumes Governments will introduce strong carbon policies, which will prevent the worst of climate change. This means that the future damage from a tonne of carbon emitted now will be low.

But using this low damage assumption in determining policy now means climate change impacts are considered less important, and it is much more likely that carbon-intensive projects, such as Heathrow, get the go-ahead. In other words, using this approach, assuming a rosy future means we get policies which prevent the rosy future from happening.

It's rather as if before a war, ministers said, "We've looked into the future, and decided we're going to win. So we've factored that result into our plans and decided we don't need to spend any money on bullets or planes".

Simon Bullock

Friends of the Earth, London N1

Another gay theory

Sir: Regarding the origin of the word "gay" ("'Gay' shifts again", 28 December), it almost certainly comes from the Yiddish "goy" meaning non-Jew, Gentile, fool, via the Rotwelsch (German criminals' slang) word gaye, meaning prostitute, as Alice Becker-Ho has shown in her The Essence of Jargon.

John McHale

London, E12

Trouble in Cheshire

Sir: Simon Carr mentions (24 December) Gwyneth Dunwoody's scathing comments on Hazel Blears without revealing their cause: her intention to split Cheshire in half. This is against the wishes of Cheshire people and organisations, contravenes the advice of her civil servants, and is in spite of the solid economic arguments which prove it will cost Cheshire ratepayers an extra 20m a year. Ms Dunwoody echoes the thoughts of the majority in Cheshire when she suggests that this perverse decision has been taken because of an an ill-given promise to friends. If the split goes ahead, everyone in Cheshire will pay dearly for it.

Huw Rowlands

Mickle Trafford, Chester

A case of kissing

Sir: On the front page (31 December) a headline says "'How can I face my boss after kissing him at the office Christmas party?' A seasonal dilemma for Virginia Ironside". Is this a problem Ms Ironside has every year? I think we should be told.

Michael Wadsworth

Chislehurst, Kent

Choppered to size

Sir: How wonderful to find an error in Tom Tickell's entertaining and informative "Quotes of 2007" (Media, 31 December). It was not a burning Cherokee helicopter at Glasgow Airport ("You do not see this sort of thing very often in Glasgow Airport") but a burning Cherokee Jeep.

Gordon Whitehead

Ripon, North Yorkshire

Dogged style

Sir: I must take issue with your correspondent Carolyn Beckingham (letter, 31 December) on appropriate dress at Opera North. Surely she must see the preposterousness of dinner jacket with flat cap and whippets?

David Garrood

Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire