Production of fur, Affordable child care and others

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The production of fur is cruel and damages the environment

The production of fur is cruel and damages the environment

Sir: The fur trade's claim that fur is good for the environment, like its hype about fur being back, is not new.

The fur trade's record on the environment is appalling. As well as the examples of chemical use given in the article "Fur - the fake debate" (23 November) the fur trade has wiped out many species from large areas of their range, caused the extinction of at least two species, released non-native species in areas where they create ecological problems (such North American mink all over Europe and possums in New Zealand) and used significant resources to produce a frivolous item that no one needs.

Introducing the bill to ban fur factory farming in England and Wales, Agriculture Secretary Elliot Morley MP said: "Fur farming is not consistent with a proper value and respect for animal life. Animals should not be destroyed or bred for destruction without a sufficient justification of public benefit."

Respect for Animals agrees with this view. Fur is cruel and unnecessary and its production damages the environment.

Director, Respect for Animals

Sir: Killing animals for their fur is a global issue. In Canada the steel jaw leg-hold trap and snare trap sadly are still legal in every province. Animals caught in traps suffer for days or are drowned or crushed to death.

Other animals raised on "fur farms" live in tiny wire mesh cages and are killed by anal electrocution, gassing or strangulation. Yes, this is all legal. Approximately 2 million animals are killed for their fur each year in Canada.

The assault against animals for their fur happens because heartless people buy real fur and fur trim. Many people can't tell the difference between real and fake. Wearing real or fake fur creates the illusion that "fur is back".

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Cost of dumping toddlers at nurseries

Sir: In the debate on affordable child care the basic question of whether it is desirable for a young child to be separated from its mother for most of the day seems to be ignored.

Toddlers are lively, inquisitive, vulnerable individuals with short attention spans. Little jaunts out to feed the ducks, take a walk round the park, shops or street market are worthwhile events to them. Instead they are dumped with a childminder or nursery before it is barely light, to return home again either when it it is already dark - or if collected earlier to be plonked in front of a television to keep them quiet. It is therefore not surprising to see that they grow up fat, bored, badly behaved and ignorant.

Infants are only at this vulnerable but dependent stage for a short time, so it seems very sad that they and their mothers cannot enjoy sharing a couple of years together.

Biggleswade, Bedfordshire

Sir: Children generally need neither psychopharmaca nor psychotherapy: they need a childhood ("Britain leads the world in child anti-depressants", 18 November).

Like other European women who come here as nannies, I was shocked to find that children from the age of three were taught to wear a uniform, sit still, study hard and perform well. The most basic conditions of life, like fresh air, enough exercise, enough sleep and natural food, were denied to them. Older children had a schedule that would tax an adult student.

Some of the children I looked after were nervous and aggressive; others unruly and hyperactive; others withdrawn and apathetic. In most cases, the only reason was that in this country the career drill begins right after the potty training.

In Germany we received a full-time academic-style education only from the age of ten, and there was still plenty of time for great achievements.

London N10

Risks of smoking

Sir: Because so many smokers have given up, the number of UK deaths from smoking is decreasing: it was 140,000 in 1990, and is now "only" about 100,000 a year. Still, the risks are so great that those who smoke should really understand them (about half of all persistent cigarette smokers are eventually killed by their habit, although half are not) when choosing whether to continue. Journalists such as Tim Luckhurst ("Smoke screen", 16 November) do not help consolidate this understanding when they misunderstand, and hence deny, the main evidence.

Our estimates are that smokers die, on average, 10 years earlier than non-smokers, and that in 2000 smoking caused about 30,000 of the 34,000 UK lung cancer deaths; 13,000 of 117,000 other UK cancer deaths; 31,000 of 237,000 UK deaths from heart attack, stroke and other vascular diseases; and another 40,000 deaths from other conditions: total 114,000 (18 per cent of all deaths in England and Wales plus 24 per cent of those in Scotland).

Lung cancer is a "smoking-related" disease, and so are heart attack and stroke, but we and others, including the health minister he quoted, attribute only some of the deaths from these smoking-related diseases to smoking, not all of them. More than 10 per cent of persistent cigarette smokers die from lung cancer; Luckhurst quotes somebody saying that under 1 per cent do, because he mixed up the risk per year with the lifetime risk.

We and the Government claim that half of all smokers are killed by it, not that "death is always the result", and we do not include among the deaths from smoking "people who should have died when they did without smoking a single cigarette".

Professor of Medical Statistics & Epidemiology
University of Oxford

Warm welcome

Sir: As a member of the front of house staff at the Old Vic, I take umbrage at Alan Strachan's suggestion of "chilly hauteur" (18 November). I take even greater umbrage at his inference that we are some sort of homogenous extension of a cynical marketing machine. A number of us were here long before Mr Spacey, and the majority are friendly, intelligent, hardworking individuals. Indeed, I often have to suffer the "chilly hauteur" of patrons who clearly do not regard those in service industry as worthy of their time or attention.

As for the uniform, it is the same one we've been wearing for some time: contrary to Mr Strachan's claim that we are now all "gussied up in sombre formal black", many of us are still dressed in the same black trousers, black waistcoat, grey tie, and white shirt - surely not an extraordinary or unusual choice of uniform for "front of house". The black shirts are simply to differentiate between ushers and bar staff. Would Mr Strachan prefer, jeans, T-shirt, and a baseball cap?

It is, of course, possible that the member of staff who served the gentleman that day was offhand, but to damn a workforce of some 50 young people on the actions of one is somewhat unfair, and it is patronising to suggest that this is the result of a change in management style.

London EC1

Choosing a good death

Sir: Andrew Hudson writes that "giving someone the option of suicide strongly suggests that their life is indeed hopeless" (letter, 18 November). This is not a judgment we think others should make for mentally competent people: it is that person's own view that should be paramount.

For some, such as Diane Pretty, suicide is not an "option" because they are not physically able to end their lives. This is a cruel discrimination, perpetuating suffering. That is one reason why we think the Bill currently before Parliament is humane.

Our concern at the Voluntary Euthanasia Society is not with a choice between life and death, but the lack of choice for terminally ill people who want to be able to have help to die and thereby secure for themselves a good death.

We do agree with Mr Hudson that a right to medical assistance to die should not extend to those who are not mentally competent, nor to those who are not terminally ill.

Chief Executive
Voluntary Euthanasia Society
London W8

Homeless ex-services

Sir: Mark Flannagan writes (Letters, 24 November) of a 1994 estimate that one in four homeless are ex-service and adds that there have been significant improvements in resettlement programmes in recent years.

As a welfare co-ordinator for the Royal British Legion I have counted up to 40 per cent of the homeless in one of the hostels in Oxford as ex-service. Often resettlement is not reaching the most vulnerable of service leavers - particularly those on medical or administrative discharge often appear to miss out.

There is certainly no reason for anyone to be complacent about the care of those discharged from the services; this has contributed to my workload increasing by 120 per cent in the past 12 months.

County Field Officer
The Royal British Legion, Ox and Bucks
Thame, Oxfordshire

Straw and extremism

Sir: As a Conservative, I am following with interest the correspondence regarding what, if anything, Jack Straw knows of Communist history. It's interesting to note that nobody in this exchange seems to be bothered by the fact that they are discussing the most horrific belief system in history, an ideology that has brought death to tens of millions and suffering to hundreds of millions more.

Were a Conservative MP to confess to any youthful flirtation with fascism, it would instantly (and rightly) spell the end of his career. It says something about the left that the same abhorrence of extremism does not apply in all parts of the political spectrum.

Milton Keynes

Sir: Tony Collins (Letters, 24 November) insists that the Bolshevik revolution was an authentic Trotskyist revolution. Fair enough. Can he now tell us of any political upheaval in Russia that has had more catastrophic consequences for that unfortunate country than the Bolshevik revolution?

Eastbourne, East Sussex

Sir: I am sure that Jack Straw (letter, 23 November) had fun searching for a quotation from Lenin attacking "Trotskyism". However, his use of an article from 1914 reveals his lack of understanding of the development of Trotsky's political thought.

At the time Trotsky was arguing for the merging of the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, a position to the right of Lenin and one that Trotsky himself later repudiated. The political philosophy that we know as Trotskyism only developed after Lenin's death in opposition to Stalin's policies.

It was the Stalinists who misused Lenin's Left Wing Communism to attack Trotsky and cover up their abandonment of Bolshevism. It is interesting that Jack Straw uses the same language and the same criticisms of Trotsky that were used at the time of the show trials and the purges. Maybe this reflects Jack Straw's real political ancestry.


Superpower clash

Sir: Adrian Hamilton's article (24 November) highlights the danger in US policy towards Iran and the hypocrisy in ignoring Israel's nuclear weapons. However Iran's significance in global politics is understated. Iran is China's biggest oil supplier and at the end of October a gas deal worth over $100bn was signed between the two countries. A massive oil deal will follow. In the battle for control of the oil and gas resources of the Caspian region, Russian and Chinese national interests are threatened by the US interventions in the area (military and political).

Both Russia and China are Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, and neither is likely to support resolutions favouring American global domination aspirations. But then the US and UK have shown that self-seeking pre-emptive military action doesn't require UN resolutions!


Shameful notoriety

Sir: You report (24 November) that reporting restrictions on under-18s who breach their anti-social behaviour orders are to be lifted, so that they may be "named and shamed" in their local media. Marvellous. This will provide just the notoriety they seek.


Foreign invaders

Sir: I read in the business section (25 November) that the Chinese intend to run our rail franchises, the Americans are posed to close Jaguar's car plant in Coventry, some Spaniards have just bought Luton Airport whilst others are restructuring the board at Abbey National which they have acquired, and last week it was the Chinese deal with MG Rover. And not a squeak out of the UK Independence Party!


Cycle of violence

Sir: Middle East peace will depend on much more than the success of the upcoming elections and finding the right successor to Yasser Arafat ("Israel to give Powell pledge on West Bank troop cuts", 22 November). Both Palestinians and Israelis are engaging in senseless killing while blaming the whole problem on the other side. Until the parties on each side can step back and see the humanity on the other side, and take responsibility for their own part in continuing the cycle of violence, I fear that it will just continue indefinitely.

Norristown, Pennsyvlania, USA

Surreal sentence

Sir: It is a surreal experience to read the sentence "The Prince appears to be putting forward a manifesto for a meritocratic society"(letter, 23 November).