As a lifelong pastoral farmer with no interest in "country sports", I suggest the level to which the urban public is misled about the British countryside is made clear by your naive leading article on the fox-hunting ban, concluding "... the only winner – if there is one – is the fox" (27 December).
Since the hunting ban, the regulation of fox numbers has been transferred from fox hunters (who wish to maintain a reasonable fox population) to gamekeepers whose job is to reduce the fox population to near zero by means of snares, poison and high-risk night-time shooting with rifles.
Those decent urban souls who think the ban has "saved" foxes could not be more mistaken. Even if the ban were lifted, many packs of hounds across Britain would struggle even to find a live fox. In fact, most landowners would now make the hunt unwelcome, not only because the hounds might disturb snares, but also because the game-shooting business brings in money from wealthy bankers.
The RSPCA and other animal welfare bodies are dishonest in pretending the hunting ban has "saved" foxes. And the so-called Countryside Alliance is a sham body dedicated to making the countryside a playground for the urban rich.
It has sold the weaker of its two historically warring groupings, fox hunters, down the river, so that its more powerful wing – game-shooters – can commit genocide on that portion of Britain's wildlife, such as foxes, they label as "vermin", so that they can maximise the other portion they call "game", and then kill them too.
Unlike hunting gentlemen, I turned out on Boxing Day to support my local morris dancers. Normally, Datchet is a busy traffic feed to the M4. On Boxing Day, it turns back into a beautiful English village: lovely church next to old village inn, and on the village green the Datchet Morris.
Lots of clashing sticks and then a sword dance but nothing killed for fun.
Recent reports imply that the Crown Prosecution Service is reluctant to, and does not, prosecute hunting offences. This is wrong. Where there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction, and it is in the public interest, the CPS does prosecute such cases.
Indeed, since the introduction of the Hunting Act in 2005, 371 offences have been charged and brought to magistrates' courts.
Chief Executive, Crown Prosecution Service, London SE1
Wrong question in poll on gay marriage
Your opinion poll question asking whether Church of England vicars should be allowed to conduct gay marriages (26 December) should actually have asked whether they should be compelled to conduct them.
This is because the established Church must, under the law, marry any couple who present themselves, and this is why, if the definition of marriage is to be changed in this way, the Government found it necessary to exempt the Church of England.
As for Archbishop Nichols, his particular complaint was about the undemocratic nature of this proposed legislation. Gay marriage was not in any party's manifesto, and nothing has happened since 2010 making necessary what was not necessary before.
But proposals in the Tory manifesto, such as a more favourable tax treatment of marriage, have been ignored.
I was disappointed to read Dr Paul Marston's letter (28 December). I have great respect for him as a person and an academic. I studied under Dr Marston on his Templeton award-winning course, Christianity, Science and History, and I count this as one of the most important experiences of my academic studies.
As I had grown up as a member of the high church, but was politically and socially of the left, Dr Marston's teaching helped me come to terms with my duality of nature and taught me to look deeper into both religious and scientific subjects than I had before.
It therefore surprises me to see Dr Marston take such a dogmatic view on the gay marriage debate. The Bible carries almost nothing on Christ's view on the subject, and He makes no specific comment that I am aware of. It seems more plausible that those who interpreted Christ's words, writing them down in the letters and books which became the Bible, did so with an agenda.
Dr Marston's course touches on the historical context in which biblical canon was decided, about how the Emperor Constantine sought to regain control over his population with an interestingly timed conversion to Christianity.
Does Dr Marston not think it more likely that a rejection of the old pagan world of the Roman and Greek traditions (where homosexuality and bisexuality were prevalent) are more likely to be the cause of this bias towards heterosexuality than God rejecting those who would follow Him but find themselves attracted to the same sex?
Mountain Ash, South Wales
Your coverage of Archbishop Vincent Nichols' Christmas homily was misleading. Professor Brian Everitt (letters, 27 December) understandably complained that Nichols could have referred to world problems such as hunger and wars.
If you read his full text of 827 words (on rcdow.og.uk), you will see that Nichols related the oppressive Roman census at the time of Jesus's birth to contemporary world problems.
Nichols mentioned peace, business ethics, and the abuse of political power, as well as commending the "faithfulness of marriage". He devoted only 40 words to sexual ethics.
Scandal of our flooded roads
Since the floods in Hull several years ago, a common theme has been the contribution to flooding of poorly maintained road drainage systems (letters, 28 December).
Councils seem to have decided that keeping gullies clear is not a priority despite the changes in climate which have resulted in more extreme rainfall. The present legislation which lays a duty on councils to prevent highway flooding is not sufficient since it allows them to hide behind lame excuses of having a defined maintenance plan even when it is clearly inadequate.
With council budgets being prepared for the next financial year, now is the time for them to take their responsibilities more seriously and to prioritise surface-water flood prevention. If they don't, then I would urge central government to force them to act.
A rare victory for the oldies
Robert Senecal's letter (19 December) reminded me of a visit I once made to a Brighton gay bar. The room being crowded, getting served was no mean feat, but eventually I was able to place my order.
I overheard one of two young things dolled up to the nines, hair encased in gel and smelling like a three-storey brothel, pass some comment about "this old git".
I spun the offending little tyke round to face me and informed him in a loud voice that it was my generation which had fought hard so that he and his like could ponce around in their skin-tight designer jeans, have sex and even go to gay bars without being arrested. My parting thrust was: "With luck, you'll be old one day too."
My comments evoked almost purple blushes and a round of applause from the other drinkers.
Michael B Johnson
How wealth gap really gets worse
Gaps are differences, not the ratios John Rentoul uses (27 December) to claim that the wealth gap is not growing. If my salary 20 years ago was £10,000 and yours was £100,000, you earned 10 times as much as I did.
If today our salaries have doubled, then your £200,000 is again 10 times my £20,000. But the £90,000 difference of 10 years ago has also doubled, to £180,000; the constant ratio has grown to a much bigger difference. If we all get richer at the same rate, then the wealth gap has to increase.
Dr Lawrence D Phillips
Professor of Decision Sciences, London School of Economics
Jesus was happy to be judgemental
Christina Patterson admires Sister Wendy Beckett for admonishing us not to rush to judge others unless we had never done anything wrong ourselves (Comment, 26 December). A fine sentiment, but should we not judge those who kill girls wanting an education, who commit honour killings, who kill homosexuals, declare condoms to be sinful etc?
Sister Wendy's call for peace and goodwill on earth is an uplifting Christmas message from the gospels, but would be even more so if Jesus had not also proclaimed that all those who are not born again and follow him will be damned to everlasting torment in a lake of fire, a severe judgement if ever there was one.
Follow the French
A sensible alternative to the abolition of standing charges on electricity bills (letters, 28 December) might be to adopt the French model.
There, one pays a modest standing charge for the basic abonnement of a maximum of 6kW, but this increases substantially the more electricity is used. This makes an excellent incentive to minimise consumption and improve insulation.
It is a model that could be easily adopted with minimal administrative disruption. One might add that the electricity tariffs are transparent and available online, a feature not provided in the UK, where any enquiry regarding tariffs gets diverted into a host of incomprehensible "comparisons".
Sacré bleu! I was glad that you noted the birthday of my coeval Gérard Depardieu in your list of birthdays (27 December), but I regret to inform you that Gérard et moi were 64 today and not, as you put (twice) 63. Please correct for next year, as I would not want the Department for Work and Pensions to delay my pension, thinking I was a year younger. Merci.
I have heard the proposed Russian ban on US adoptions (27 December) described here as depriving Russian children of the chance of a better life. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to describe it as saving them from the possibility of being slaughtered in their classrooms.
The Hague, NetherlandsReuse content