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Saturday 23 July 2011
Letters: The Badger Cull
Farmers hit back in cull
I am disappointed to see that a healthy debate on badger culls in your letters page this week has resorted to British farmers again being unfairly attacked.
Accusing them of being "blinkered" and of practising "bad husbandry" shows how blinkered those criticising them are. British farmers not only make a living for themselves and their families but they also genuinely care about the products they are producing and rural landscapes they manage.
No farmer wants to see an animal suffer but an element of husbandry is managing the land you work on and this sometimes, I am afraid, has to involve the population control of certain species.
The main issue with the TB crisis is that farmers desperately need a resolution after years of delays in decision-making by the previous government. They want to eradicate the needless waste in culling livestock, which has been ongoing because no one has been willing to properly address the issue once and for all.
TB is out of control and the evidence points to cattle contracting the disease from badgers. A vaccine would not be available for four years, by which time the problem could have had a devastating impact on the industry.
I fear that some of those calling for a boycott of British beef and dairy products have a hidden agenda in attacking farmers. I would not be surprised if they are already chosing not to consume these products for other reasons.
It could well be that this situation is being used by them to further damage an industry threatened by a terrible disease.
Hack inquiries to take years
The judge-led inquiry into the phone hacking cannot start until after the police have completed their inquires, which it is estimated will take "many years". So the full time-span of all inquiries could take perhaps a decade.
But the Met has lost two first-rate leading officers, the Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates. There may well have been modest errors of misjudgement, such as John Yates and his relationship with NOTW deputy editor Neil Wallis and his employment at the Met, but is this not minor compared with the huge wider responsibilities this officer had for counter-terrorism?
Where will we be in 12 months if there is some huge calamity in London because the best officers have been driven out of their posts? What then, an inquiry into the inquiry, into the inquiry, the endless semantic trail of who said what when, with "information" becoming more and more diluted, not unlike the 30-year Bloody Sunday inquiries?
Far more effective would be to set a fire-wall between media, police, and government; no one switches professions from one to another until at least three years after a last appointment. And keep in mind, the hackers and hacker-managers were in the media, not the police.
Peter Dunn (letters, 20 July) implies that Ed Miliband's criticism of NI and Rebekah Brooks is hypocritical, because he visited her and "asked tenderly after her children, though she does not have any".
That Miliband asked such a question demonstrates, surely, his utter lack of closeness to her, a most enviable condition for a politician at present.
Thirsk, North Yorkshire
In all the furore about hacking, how come the execs from Vodafone, Orange, Nokia, Ericsson, Apple et al are not being grilled by a Commons Select Committee for releasing products that are clearly inherently insecure?
Aid to India is a smart move
Your leading article regarding India no longer needing our aid (20 July) misses the point. Foreign aid is about geopolitical interests. It is in our interest to have a foothold in such an emerging super-power.
India is a beacon of hope and freedom in a volatile part of the world and we need to have close links with the country. There is no such thing as a free lunch. India itself gives huge aid to Afghanistan and many African countries.
It is all about winning hearts and minds and enhancing one's commercial and political interests. Because of India's massive population, damning statistics are produced as soon as it spends money on defence or space technology.
The founding fathers of modern India did not want an army, believing in the goodwill of its neighbours, only to be invaded by China in 1962. This episode is still referred to as India's humiliating defeat here in the West. It is as if unless India removes its poverty it should not do anything. Almost all countries of the world have poor people and many first world countries are in trillions of pounds of debt.
Does that mean they have to stop everything and not do anything? India will not be hurt by the suspension of £295m aid but it will be a small saving at the cost of our long-term interests.
In your leading article, you raise the question of continuing to provide India with overseas aid to the tune of £295m. Most people would agree that a country with a booming economy and rising spending on arms should no longer benefit from such aid, especially when one considers the UK's dire economic outlook.
The answer perhaps lies within the pages of The Independent itself. Readers only need turn to page 31 of the same issue and read the article "Peace Loving India". A brief scan reveals that the UK is the largest exporter of arms to India.
I would imagine that £295m represents only a fraction of the benefit of these exports to the UK economy, a small price to pay to protect British jobs.
Perhaps we should ask the arms exporters themselves to pick up the tab? The only problem is that whenever British companies actively pursue exports with the promise of aid they are subject to accusations of bribery and corruption; it seems we are stuck with the present system of state-sponsored bribery.
Burry Port, Carmarthenshire
The high costs of home care
There has been much discussion on the affordability of domiciliary care in recent weeks, but less on the economics of the situation
On a recent visit to my in-laws, I saw their care plan under which they receive 32 hours care per week. The agency supplying this care charges the local authority concerned more than £900 per week, or £28-plus per hour of care delivered.
It was obvious their carers were not earning anywhere near that amount. Having run 365-day operations myself, I am aware of the costs of covering holidays, sickness etc, but even so, the level of charge versus the salaries paid looks to me like there is a lot of money sloshing about in the system that is not being directed to care, but is being taken in management costs and profits.
Perhaps if councils directly employed such staff again, rather than outsourcing, salary levels could be increased to a realistic level, and at the same time, the level of care could be increased and the overall costs reduced.
Gays face death in Uganda 'purge'
Inflaming populist opinion in Africa against homosexuals has already led to murder ("Ghana official calls for effort to 'round up' suspected gays" 22 July).
Ugandan activist David Kato was beaten to death after his name and photograph, alongside those of other gay Ugandans, appeared on the front of the Kampala newspaper Rolling Stone, under the headline "Hang Them".
Alongside the obvious human rights crime, one consequence of the increasingly targeted attacks on gay people in several African countries that is often overlooked is an increase in HIV infections.
Gay people subjected to heightened stigma, discrimination and even persecution will be far less likely to access whatever HIV treatment, care and support might be available. It is vital that their rights, as well as all specific groups vulnerable to HIV infection, are protected.
Winnie Ssanyu Sseruma
Advocacy & Networks Officer, Christian Aid,
I initially thought Ghana was breaking the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by being homophobic, although it signed in 1957, by having on its constitution guarantees on human rights, which exclude sexuality.
But surprisingly, Article 2 of UDHR does not state it either, saying only that "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status".
And Article 16 only allows men and women to marry and found a family. When will the UN update the UDHR to include sexuality?
West Bromwich, West Midlands
What's in mind for Scotland?
The MoD review this week has doubled the number of soldiers in Scotland, turned the Leuchars air base into a barracks, co-opted the naval base of Rosyth for a further Army build-up, saved Fort George, and created a new mobile Army brigade.
As the European economy continues its enfeeblement, and Scotland is designated a pastoral, wind-turbine, fuel-poverty utopia, is there not some strategic shift in potential military operations being underwritten?
Dr David Spooner
The last word?
Ah lads. Drop Cliché Corner? Sure it's great craic ...
Siobhán Ní Chuanaigh
Perspectives on religions
Islamists must be checked
Gerard Gilbert's feature on the upcoming BBC drama on the controversy over Monty Python's Life of Brian (21 July) laments the fact that Christianity seems to be such an easy target for mockery that it's hardly worth bothering with.
In the same issue, you have a small article on the continued cover-up of systematic child rape in Ireland by the Vatican and a rather larger piece, in the business section, of the C of E criticising the ethics of News International while apparently failing to mention the "little local difficulty" of their Christian brethren across the Irish Sea.
To top it all you've a reviewer of the latest Harry Potter movie boldly declaring that as a Christian, "I generally avoid TV shows and movies about witches and witchcraft". A better demonstration of the religious inability to distinguish fact from fiction I struggle to imagine.
Of course, the premise of the Monty Python article is correct; Islam is in desperate need of reining in, with the kind of attention Christianity has long since become used to. When our media and politicians recognise this they may begin to stand up to the significant minority of Islamists whose default position appears to be threats of violence to anyone who disagrees.
Halifax, West Yorkshire
Ireland takes on the Vatican
The latest revelation of child abuse emerging from Ireland is a call for action. The Vatican has covered up this type of abuse for a long time.
It now appears that guilty priests and their superiors were shielded by a letter from the Vatican discouraging the Diocese of Cloyne Church in Ireland to intervene in halting the abuse of children and forbidding the Church from co-operating with local enforcement.
Nineteen priests were involved, over 13 years. The Vatican insists that Church law triumphs over civil law. This argument is familiar, many Muslims claiming sharia law is the law of the land.
Ireland deserves credit for enacting a new law making it a crime to fail to report child abuse. Guilty priests must not be allowed to escape by being sent to another church or disappearing behind the "iron curtain" of the Vatican.
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