Letters: Xenophobia in Europe

There is no place for xenophobia in the Europe of today
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The Independent Online

Sir: Bruce Anderson's remarks on Germany (Opinion, 12 June) are profoundly worrying. In a meeting in December in Brussels, Tony Blair told UKIP members that they were living in 1945; outmoded, outdated and dangerously jingoistic. He said that Europe had moved on. It seems Bruce Anderson hasn't. Of most concern among Mr Anderson's remarks is his comparison of Angela Merkel to Hitler, saying that she finds it intolerable that Poles and Czechs should aspire to self-determination. Germany was one of the strongest proponents, along with the UK, of Polish and Czech accession to the EU in 2004.

Contrary to the assertion that Germany would prefer if Polish and Czech parties stayed away from the Tories because they would stray from Germany's influence, it is clear to the majority of MEPs in the European Parliament that concerns about the Tories' attempt to create an alliance with the Polish Law and Justice Party were simply down to their policies. In Poland they have banned gay pride marches and their coalition partners have said that gay people who attend these marches should be "bludgeoned".

Europeans sadly still face discrimination and intolerance in their own countries and communities, but we now have a political structure allowing us to tackle everyday problems facing all European people together. Over 60 years on, Germany has changed, Europe has changed. The time for commentators to stop inciting such parochial and xenophobic feeling is long overdue.

BERNHARD RAPKAY MEP

LEADER OF THE GERMAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT GARY TITLEY MEP LEADER OF THE BRITISH LABOUR PARTY IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT BRUSSELS

End the import of black bear fur

Sir: I take issue with the Ministry of Defence's viewpoint that the method of killing of Canadian bears to make bearskin hats is purely a matter for the Canadian government ("A bear necessity?", 17 June).

I am a qualified scientist who has visited Canada several times in the past few years to observe and photograph wildlife. I know the frustration and anger felt by many Canadians who see their government adhere to the demands of the hunting minority and trample on the opinions of everyone else. I know the tricks the hunters use - how bait is positioned to lure bears out of hunting-free protected areas, so that they can be shot from tree stands. Even the slightest conflict between bears and people is whipped up by hunting groups as propaganda.

Bear management is vastly complicated by the issue of shooting. The key to resolving bear conflicts is preventing bears from associating people with food handouts. For this reason, feeding bears inside a national park will net you a Cdn$2000 fine.

On the other side of the invisible border, hunting outfits legally feed bears donuts, offal, and plenty else. Apart from the potential danger to people, feeding bears disrupts natural ecological processes. Encouraging animals to congregate at bear feeding stations has also been associated with the spread of TB in wildlife.

Canada's wildlife deserves better than this. It is time to end the import of black bear fur.

ADELE BRAND

CATERHAM, SURREY

Sir: Thank you for informing your readers about the fact that after two decades of the MoD "searching" for an alternative, black bears in Canada are still being slaughtered to make the ornamental caps worn by the Queens guards.

The bears have no strategy against the MoD and with all the resources, science and technology at the disposal of the MoD, it is inexusable that an alternative to the real bear skin has not yet been found, this clearly displays a defiant lack of will on the part of the MoD.

The continuing slaughter of Canadian black bears to make bearskin caps for the five regiments footguards is too high a price to pay for tradition, and in the 21st century with modern synthetic and humane materials readily available, we have a responsiblity to do better.

ANITA SINGH

CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR PETA EUROPE LTD LONDON, SE1 1

Sir: While 175 MPs (including one Tory) have backed Labour MP Chris Mullins' Commons motion calling for military bearskins to be made from cruelty-free modern materials, true-blue Tory MPs have tabled an amendment supporting the use of the skins of dead bears as a "glorious military tradition". So much for the green credentials of the new cuddly Tory party.

CHRISTOPHER CLAYTON

WAVERTON, CHESHIRE

Independent schools encourage ambition

Sir: An influence not mentioned in your coverage of the Sutton Trust's report on the private school system (15 June), nor in your leader, is that of role models. The tendency to deride "posh" accents and perceived "upper class" activities (croquet comes to mind!) pervades the media usually watched, listened to and read by schoolchildren. Whilst all teenagers are exposed to the same TV and radio shows, this tends to discourage the able and ambitious in state schools, who are already a minority in their peer group.

Fee-paying schools generally encourage competition in sport and elsewhere, and are comfortable with those who aspire to the best universities. The children find it easier to ignore derision from potential role models. Oxford and Cambridge have made great attempts to attract new students from state schools, only to find apathy and low self-expectation thwarting success.

A remedy therefore lies largely in a change of attitude amongst the population as a whole, starting with those whom our children admire and wish to emulate.

PETER SMITH

GREAT COMBERTON, WORCESTERSHIRE

Sir: The suggestion that the independent sector has a "stranglehold" on social mobility is flawed. It fails to acknowledge that, as a result of substantial bursary and scholarship provision, an independent education can ensure access to success for many who would not otherwise benefit.

A third of independently educated pupils receive financial assistance. It is in independent schools that many of our future engineers, linguists, scientists and sports men and women are being nurtured. Far from "tightening its grip" as your article suggests, the sector is looking to expand partnerships with state schools and thus work to raise standards for all our children.

DR BRENDA DESPONTIN

PRESIDENT GIRLS' SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION LEICESTER

Sir: Your leading feature on the occupational outcomes of pupils in private education seems to contain an assumption that those who come from private education were privileged to start with and perpetuate that privilege.

At the Royal Grammar School of Newcastle upon Tyne, another approach is in evidence: no scholarships and a means-tested (only) bursary scheme which sees pupils come from three quarters of the postcodes of the North East, and from over 70 state schools, to turn the aspirations of very diverse young people into real and lasting achievements.

That really is "new ladders of social mobility and advancement" and is good for young people themselves, the school, and the future knowledge needs of the North East.

CRISPIAN STRACHAN

CHAIRMAN RGS BURSARY CAMPAIGN CLIFTON, NORTHUMBERLAND

Sir: Why is the fact that a large percentage of judges, MPs, top journalists and others were educated at private schools an embarrassment for the current Government? These people were educated some 30 or more years ago and the decision to send them to private schools was made by their parents - the previous generation. Whether or not the current Government has succeeded in improving social mobility we shall not know for another 20 or more years.

ILSE BOAS

LONDON N21

Business rates in Greater London

Sir: Barrie Clement correctly states that Crossrail should be financed by a combination of government, business and through fares ("Crossrail to cost businesses 3 per cent on rates", 7 June). However, two additions need to be made to the otherwise very accurate article.

First, the proposal that the business contribution should be through a supplement of 3 per cent on business rates in the Greater London area would not apply to properties with a rateable value of less than £50,000. Around 85 per cent of properties in Greater London would therefore be exempt.

Second, the Mayor's proposal for a more regular review of business rates is one of a number of suggestions made to the Lyons Inquiry. It is not a necessary part of funding Crossrail itself.

JOHN ROSS

DIRECTOR, ECONOMIC AND BUSINESS POLICY, GREATER LONDON AUTHORITY, LONDON SE1

Social responsibilities of immunisation

Sir: The anti-MMR parents quoted in your cover story on measles (16 June) believe their choice not to have their child immunised is a personal one, in the interests of their own child. They fail to understand that immunisation protects the whole community, including people who are much more vulnerable to disease than their child may be, such as those on immune-suppressing medication.

Since rubella is only dangerous to unborn babies, giving your infant a rubella vaccine (as part of MMR or separately) is an entirely philanthropic act in the case of boys, and mostly so in girls (since they are immunised again at the start of puberty for their own children's benefit). The reasons for mumps and measles immunisation are both personal and social, but the parents you quote appear unaware of their social responsibilities.

The Government could help with this, by stressing both aspects in immunisation campaigns, rather than appealing solely to our selfish instincts. Now that is clear that MMR is safe, no parent should deny its benefits either to their child or to the rest of us.

PHIL DAVIES

SALISBURY, WILTSHIRE

Selfish attitude to the environment

Sir: Has your correspondent Anthony Day (14 June) really worked out the implications of a period of "two or three hundred years' time" for the stabilisation of global temperatures at a higher level? If that is allowed to happen most, if not all, of the polar sea ice will have melted, together with a considerable portion of the polar ice caps and almost all of the extra-polar glaciers.

It is conceivable that western engineers would be capable of constructing sea defences adequate for water levels probably in excess of ten metres higher, but the very height implies considerably longer sea walls and similarly enhanced costs both of construction and continuous maintenance. Even if the West could afford expenditure at such a level could we expect them also to subsidise the even more expensive costs of protecting the third world delta areas of Bangladesh, West Bengal, Burma and what we used to call Indo-China?

To be satisfied with containing the change and protecting, as best we can, against the effects is to guarantee a world where, once again, the opulent survive and the indigent go to the wall.

Let us demand stronger measures that have so far been advocated and have an end to this "I'm all right, Jack attitude."

R J SNELL

CHIPPENHAM, WILTSHIRE

Saving the whale

Sir: I think that those of us who see the hunting and killing of the humpback whales by Japan as a great evil should refuse to buy products from Japan or products made by companies owned by Japan (report, 17 June).

Today power does not reside in governments or politics but in the market place. If we care for the humpback and wish to save it for our children we should use our buying power and make Japan stop killing whales.

PAUL BRAZIER

WOTTON UNDER EDGE, GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Bicycle bells

Sir: Mr Sheppard laments that there are no bells in the "Ten Best Accessories" (12 June). The best accessory for announcing your presence is the human voice which can range from an "excuse me" to a loud bellow, depending on the circumstances: much more effective than a pathetic "ting".

JOHN DAVY

POTTERS BAR, HERTFORDSHIRE

Sir: I can reassure Mr Sheppard (Letters, 16 June) that at least one bicycle is fitted with a bell. However, in my 10 years of cycle commuting I have almost never used it. Pedestrians usually react negatively when they hear a bicycle bell, as though being rebuked, whereas motorists can't hear it.

Perhaps if Mr Sheppard and other car drivers would keep their windows wound down, their music and telephones switched off and refrain from conversation with their passengers or revving their engines, thereby placing themselves on a similar level of alertness as of most cyclists, then the bicycle bell might be a viable alternative.

PETER GROOME

BRISTOL

Sir: Recently I passed two boys cycling on the pavement. Another boy was cycling with them, but on the road. One of the boys on the pavement called out to the boy cycling on the road, "I'm going to tell your mum, you're riding on the road."

I suspect all mums with cycling children would rather have them alive and using the pavement than risking their lives on our busy roads.

BILL MASON

BECKENHAM, KENT

Indian income

Sir: Regarding your article about the benefits of British rule in India (Niall Ferguson: "Home truths about famine, war and genocide", 14 June), two leading Indian economists, Shah and Khambata, writing in 1924 reported:

"The average Indian income is just enough either to feed two men in every three of the population, or give them all two in place of every three meals they need, on condition that they all consent to go naked, live out of doors all the year round, have no amusement or recreation, and want nothing else but food, and that the lowest the coarsest, the least nutritious."

Some price to pay for the benefits of being colonised.

RAJ KOTHARI

BRIDPORT, DORSET

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