The Spectator

Letters to the Editor | 10 September 2005

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RSPCA is off target

Simon Heffer was right to warn about the danger to shooting, and Charles Moore was equally right last week (The Spectator’s Notes, 3 September) to point to the real issues that shooters must address. But whatever its position on shooting, it is clear that the RSPCA has already utterly corrupted the public’s understanding of what constitutes real animal welfare. Their aggressive campaign to ban hunting seduced many members of the general public into thinking that fox-hunting is the worst form of animal cruelty imaginable. Many people now assume that they are ethical animal lovers just because they oppose hunting. At the same time they quite cheerfully keep their dogs locked away in tower blocks or buy battery chickens at £2.50 from Tesco.

By focusing so much condemnation on the single — and relatively unimportant — issue of hunting, the RSPCA has spent less time and effort than it should have done on talking about genuine cases of animal cruelty. This is a worrying distortion of the organisation’s charitable objectives.

Peter Luff
Joint Chairman, All Party Parliamentary Middle Way Group, House of Commons, London SW1

Simon Heffer says that ‘the animal rights fascists are now turning their attention to the killing of birds with guns’ (‘Gunning for game shooting’, 27 August). He asserts that the RSPCA ‘is heavily politicised and partisan in its opposition to field sports’ and quotes Jackie Ballard: ‘We will get round to try and end this.’ Heffer is right — we are against shooting in principle, but he is absolutely wrong to suggest that we are actively campaigning to ban it.

We did campaign to ban hunting with dogs. We did, in centuries past, campaign to end bear-baiting and dog-fighting. We are campaigning to ban battery cages for laying hens, but we are not campaigning to ban shooting. Indeed, our stance on shooting has not changed for more than 20 years. Look at Jackie Ballard’s quote in context: ‘One day when the RSPCA has a lot of money and has ended all the other examples of cruelty to animals, we will get round to try and end this,’ she said. Last year the RSPCA investigated about 110,000 cruelty complaints and achieved 1,665 convictions for animal cruelty offences. That time is clearly not upon us.

John Rolls
Director of Animal Welfare Promotion,
RSPCA, Horsham, West Sussex

Two ways of trading

Your clarion call to the Conservatives to ‘keep up the fight for an open, free-trading Europe’ (‘Why “Europe” matters’, 3 September) reads oddly alongside your reference to the ‘hard logical necessities of having a single market, from which benefits have unquestionably flowed’. Free trade is achieved through inter-governmental agreements between separate countries, such as the Nafta. The single market, better known on the Continent as the European Internal Market, is about the supranational regulation of trade within the single country the EU already largely is for trade purposes. What the Single European Act in effect did was enable the EU to establish an internal trade policy as the counterpart of its external trade policy, or common commercial policy.

The single market and free trade are, to borrow Charles I’s phrase, clean different things, and that is the choice the Conservatives really need to make. If the UK left the single market, mutual interest would surely dictate continuance of duty-free trade. But there would be downsides such as the inconvenience of the transition, the loss of free movement of goods and the re-establishment of UK–EU customs posts. These downsides need to be assessed, but prima facie they should be outweighed by the upsides of the UK recovering control of its trade policy domestically and with the rest of the world.

Ronald Stewart-Brown
Trade Policy Research Centre, Charlbury, Oxon

Today’s Tamerlane

You say that in the mass murderer stakes Tamburlaine, or Tamerlane, ‘comes a long way behind’ Lenin (Diary, 3 September). I’m not so sure. In many ways, the Tatar warlord — who used to bury people alive in cement and slice ambassadors in half and was famously inventive in the torture and mass bloodshed stakes — makes Lenin look like a squeamish cissy.

As for President Islam Karimov, who likes to compare himself favourably to Tamerlane, we must hope his days are numbered. He has inflicted untold damage on Uzbekistan since the country’s independence in 1991, and the West should have nothing to do with him.

Justin Marozzi
London NW3

Sad but true

Paul Johnson (And another thing, 27 August) despairs of ‘the sheer moral, emotional and intellectual emptiness of the universe’ as seen by the Dawkins–Darwinists. I felt much the same about dental extraction when faced with the truth about the Tooth Fairy. Unhappily, my feelings did not invalidate this truth. These livid polemics are probably wasted on run-of-the-mill atheists who make the commonsense (Gibbonian) observation that while all religions cannot be true, they can all be (and probably are) false.

J.M. Hallinan
Linley Point, NSW, Australia

Tempting fate

What possessed Mike Atherton to write an article predicting an England victory (‘Triumph of the Poms’, 3 September)? And why on earth have the England and Wales Cricket Board already booked Trafalgar Square for a victory parade to celebrate winning back the Ashes? Haven’t they heard of tempting fate?

Should we lose, we shall at least be able to console ourselves by not seeing our egregious Prime Minister capitalising on the occasion.

Eric Brown
Bromley, Kent