Resting 11th May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Troutbridge has gone to hong Kong with a highly secret navigating device and Lieutenant Murray and Lesliev has been captured by the master what terrible fate awaits them? Priceless.
Rain at last, a fine excuse for not doing anything in the garden. So I loaf around reading Doctor Who
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just under 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.


Taylor Mead
Taylor Mead, who has died aged 88, was an actor, beat poet and performance artist who became a key member of Andy Warhol’s “factory”, the collection of oddballs and exhibitionists who clustered around the pop artist in the 1960s and 1970s; most notably, Mead’s bare buttocks starred, for 76 minutes, in Warhol’s 1964 film Taylor Mead’s Ass.

Taylor Mead Photo: REDUX/EYEVINE
6:43PM BST 10 May 2013
The previous year Warhol had arrived in Hollywood with Mead, staying for two weeks at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Warhol used his new silent 16mm Bolex movie camera to shoot his first partially scripted feature, Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort of (1963). This featured the ridiculously puny-looking Mead as the jungle hero in a series of loosely connected episodes, including a scene in which he bathes with a naked Jane (Naomi Levine) in a bathtub and later has to rescue her. Mead edited the film, and provided his own narration and musical arrangements.
The film earned a scathing notice in The Village Voice, the reviewer observing: “People don’t want to see an hour and a half of Taylor Mead’s ass.” Mead replied in a letter that no such film was found in the archives, but “we are rectifying this undersight”. Two days later, Warhol shot the opus which consisted solely of one long shot of Taylor Mead’s posterior.
The film inspired a frenzy of deconstruction by avant garde critics, much of which tipped over into self-parody: “Staring at his cleft moon for 76 minutes,” wrote Wayne Koestenbaum, “I begin to understand its abstractions: high-contrast lighting conscripts the ass into being a figure for whiteness itself… The buttocks, seen in isolation, seem explicitly double: two cheeks, divided in the centre by a dark line. The bottom’s double structure recalls Andy’s two-panelled paintings… ”
Mead went on to appear in several more of Warhol’s films, including Lonesome Cowboys (1968), but later receded from view. Some thought this was a pity, observing that, with his comic timing and gift for bravura improvisation, he could have been a great actor.
In one interview, Mead claimed that in order to escape Warhol’s power he had fled to Italy, where Federico Fellini, under the impression that Mead was a huge star in his own country, had staged a dazzling reception for him at Cinecitta.
Taylor Mead was born at Grosse Pointe, Michigan, on New Year’s Eve 1924 to wealthy parents. After leaving Grosse Pointe Academy he held a variety of jobs, then studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse in California and the Herbert Berghof Studio.
His first screen appearance was in a 1950s B-movie as a deaf mute who gets murdered. He then took a starring role in Ron Rice’s seminal Beat movie The Flower Thief (1960), in which he played an elfin mystic wandering the North Beach neighbourhood of San Francisco clutching a stolen gardenia, an American flag and a teddy bear. Three years later he was the Atom Man in Rice’s Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man.
After moving to New York, Mead became part of the Beat poetry scene before gravitating to Warhol’s “factory” on East 47th Street.
Mead starred in several other independent films, including Wynn Chamberlain’s The Secret Life of Hernando Cortez (1968) — a film which boasted “gymnastic sexual liaisons in a variety of places, including trees”, and in which he appeared with fellow Warhol acolyte Ultra Violet.
Mead somehow managed to survive the twin scourges of drugs and Aids which took such a heavy toll on his contemporaries, but his later years were spent in near destitution.
In 2005 he featured in a documentary, Excavating Taylor Mead, coming across as a lonely old barfly fighting eviction from a squalid Lower East Side apartment and feeding stray cats.
Taylor Mead, born December 31 1924, died May 8 2013


Given the media hysteria last week about Ukip’s better-than-expected local election results, you could be forgiven for thinking they had stormed the corridors of Westminster. Yet as Zoe Williams points out (Comment, 9 May), this remains a party with no MPs, no London assembly members and only six more councillors than the Greens. Where the media leads, David Cameron follows. So instead of offering a coherent vision for economic recovery to help the millions who are struggling against unemployment, rising living costs and savage welfare cuts, he chooses to sing to the reactionary tune of Ukip on issues like immigration. And instead of staying true to his pre-election pledges on climate change, the prime minister has been all too ready to drop the subject – not least from his list of priorities for the UK’s G8 presidency.
Yet we Greens know there is huge support for our policies, whether on climate change and the environment, or social justice and public services. Out of 332,237 people surveyed in the Vote for Policies survey before the last election, where voted on policies alone (not parties or personalities), over 24% – more than any other party – chose Green policies. The last time people had a chance to vote in elections under proportional representation – the Euro elections of 2009 – the Greens won over a million votes, demonstrating again the growing support for action on the Green agenda.
As I highlighted in the amendment I put down to the Queen’s speech this week, even the World Bank is now telling us that without urgent and radical cuts in emissions, global temperatures will rise by 4C or more by the end of the century, resulting in “devastating” environmental impacts for all of us. The case for political action has never been clearer. That’s what makes the failure of the media to give serious attention to the growing relevance and success of the Green party so serious.
Caroline Lucas MP
Green, Brighton Pavilion

While the Big Lottery Fund will fund religious groups to deliver social outcomes evidenced by need, activities funded by us must be as accessible and inclusive as possible (Gay activists urge review of lottery grants, 10 May). We will not fund activities that are specifically religious or proselytising in nature or that are contrary to our own equalities policy. Our mission is to help communities and individuals most in need and it is our experience that many religious groups can have unique access to some of those that are hardest to reach. We take very seriously the assessment of applicants and monitoring of our grants. However, this task must be proportionate to the size of grant we are awarding in order to keep the overheads of making 12,000 lottery grants each year at a reasonable level. We investigate all allegations of funding being misused or breaching our conditions.
Peter Wanless
Chief executive, Big Lottery Fund

Stephen Hawking is berated for traducing the spirit of free speech and liberty by boycotting Israel’s upcoming presidential conference (Hawking boycotts conference in Israel, 9 May). According to the conference organiser, Israel Maimon: “Israel is a democracy in which all individuals are free to express their opinions, whatever they may be.” But what sort of freedom of expression is it that condones and underwrites a state that “democratically” colonises another people’s lands and imposes an oppressive occupation? I would have thought this was, par excellence, a case of actions needing to speak louder than words.
Alan Mackie
• Following the collapse of apartheid in South Africa in 1990, both black and white communities acknowledged that the international sport boycott had been more significant in the transformation than 42 years of “engagement”. In Gaza and on the West Bank, the 56 years of engagement with the Israeli government since the occupation began has seen the situation worsen immeasurably for the Palestinians. Is not an academic boycott at least worth trying?
Michael Meadowcroft
• I’d like to applaud Stephen Hawking’s decision to boycott next month’s conference in Jerusalem. I also find Shurat HaDin’s comment (Hypocrisy claims, 9 May), that “if [Hawking] truly wants to pull out of Israel he should also pull out his Intel Core i7 from his tablet”, to be utterly shameless. The virulence of the condemnation mounted against anyone who is critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians gives the lie to claims that boycotts are ineffective.
Pete Stockwell
• Supporters of the boycott of Israel’s academic institutions manifest inconsistency in many ways (Why Hawking was right, 10 May); here’s a couple.
First – and most obviously – they should also be boycotting the US’s academic institutions, given the horrendous treatment of Guantánamo prisoners – both immoral and illegal.
Second, they cannot deny that Israeli citizens have suffered horribly from Palestinian rocket attacks; presumably the boycotters strongly object to Israel’s use of “collective responsibility” when retaliating and hence killing innocent civilians.
Paradoxically, though, the boycotters are themselves guilty of the misuse of collective responsibility – for they must surely know that many Israeli academics strongly oppose the Israeli government’s policies.
Peter Cave

Can we be certain that Burkhard Kosminski, the director of Düsseldorf opera house’s new Nazi-themed production of Tannhäuser, did not insure heavily against the immediate failure of the show (Don’t mention the war, 10 May)? Maybe it should have been subtitled Springtime for Wagner.
Tim Matthews
Luton, Bedfordshire
• Your report of the first day of New Zealand’s cricket match in Leicester against the England Lions (May 10) spoke of “a grim, grey day, beloved only by homesick natives of Invercargill”. For the record, Invercargill, where I was born, boasts an average of 1,614 hours of sunshine every year, compared with a range of 1,350 to 1,500 hours over the English Midlands, where the game was played.
Jeremy Waldron
All Souls College, Oxford
• I share Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s hopes for the future of our fisheries (Comment, 10 May). Reforming EU fisheries policy is one thing. But while skippers from Galicia are routinely fired for sticking to quotas, enforcing it is another.
Sam Llewellyn
Kington, Herefordshire
• Frank Muir, I believe, told of the stage hand’s qaudruple negative: “Nobody never said nothing to me about no lights” (Letters, 10 May).
John Richards
St Ives, Cornwall
• Don’t put all the blame on the journalists (Letters, 10 May). In 30-plus years of nursing, I’ve not met many patients or relatives who talk about being taken to hospital. The vast majority seem to have been “rushed” there.
Brian Booth
Rochester, Kent
• The description “former shadow home secretary” (Coalition rift, 10 May) adds nothing to David Davis’s stature outside the media bubble and Westminster. Ditto “Tory grandees”.
Ralph Gordon
Romford, Essex
• Labour vs cyclists: Hodge knocks them down, Miliband picks up. Is this a new election strategy?
William Weinstein

Paul Noel Wilson is disparaging in his comments regarding Sir Alex Ferguson (Letters, 10 May). Fair enough. However, referring to footballers as “an overpaid bunch of oiks” is unfair and snobbish. Many footballers are signed by their clubs aged 10 or younger. These lads train two or three times a week and can play two games at the weekend. They are transported by their parents. Only a tiny proportion of these lads will make the grade as a professional footballer. An even smaller proportion will earn fabulous salaries. Throughout their careers they will have to deal with injuries and aged 35 their careers will be over.
The very best will have brought pleasure to millions of people, and will have spent their money on houses and cars for relatives. They will also have paid tax at its highest grade. The vast majority come from working-class families and, unlike the royal family and a lot of our politicians, will not have had privileged upbringings or elitist educations. Footballers also face career-ending injuries every time they set foot on the pitch. Yes, some are very well paid but taking into account all of the above, are they not worth it?
I too am a poetry lover and am sure the Guardian would give Seamus Heaney appropriate coverage should he retire from poetry. I doubt, however, whether Mr Heaney has as many admirers worldwide as, say, Ryan Giggs or Robin van Persie.
Tony Webb
• Simon Jenkins (In politics, you can’t rely on the hairdryer treatment, 10 May) says that the idea of sport as a metaphor for life is a quaint Victorian hangover. Sport has become a substitute for political life. In the brouhaha over the recent elections many forget the small turnout and the obvious public disenchantment with local politics that this indicates.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, Juvenal gave us the phrase “bread and circuses”, reflecting his disgust at the way politicians could buy votes with baubles. More recently, Terry Eagleton, in his book The Gatekeeper, said there have been few more crafty ways of deflecting people from political action than sport. He says that capitalism destroys community and solidarity but provides powerful substitutes for them on the football field. Real history and tradition are replaced by the annals of sporting achievement.
In English Journey, 80 years ago, JB Priestley wrote that everything possible was being done to spoil the game of football: heavy financial interests, absurd player-selling system, lack of birth or residential qualifications for players and the absurd publicity given to it by the press – Guardian please note! I wonder what he would think today.
Joseph Cocker
Leominster, Herefordshire
• Weekly viewers watch as Ferguson openly and obviously mouths a tirade of foul language towards referees, linesmen and anyone who crosses him. In my local ground there are notices stating those using using foul and abusive language will be ejected. He behaves towards officials in a fashion that would merit the description in law of disorderly behaviour under section five of the Public Order Act.
His much-reported kicking of a boot at David Beckham would, for anyone else, have led to a charge of assault at least. He claims “there is nothing wrong in losing your temper”. Why, then, does the probation service run anger management courses for offenders who can’t control their temper? A football banning order would be imposed on a supporter behaving in such a way. The FA is finding it increasingly hard to recruit referees. Why are they surprised when the game’s most prominent manager behaves as he does?
Nigel Reynolds
Mirfield, West Yorkshire
• First Thatcher dies, then Sir Alex Ferguson retires, then David Moyes leaves Everton. There must be a Liverpool fan out there looking for a new magic lamp.
Ron Gould
• End of an era for Manchester United – and a great day for global warming as climate modellers remove the impact of Sir Alex’s hairdryer.
Martin Treacy
Cardigan, Ceredigion
• With the customary allowance for Fergie time, I believe Sir Alex still has a further two seasons to go.
John Hampson


Mr Gove’s latest attempt to discredit history teachers (report, 10 May) involves the creation of yet another straw man: first there was the history teacher who was “anti-knowledge” and now the “Mr Men”, or “Eddy the Teddy” history curriculum.
I have taught history for 12 years and have never felt the need to use analogies with cartoon characters. It is not particularly difficult to dig up some light-hearted or ill-conceived teaching resource for the purpose of denigrating history teaching before you appropriate history for a political agenda.
To accuse history teaching of “infantilising” is rich coming from someone who would replace the existing approach, which encourages critical thought, with rote learning. Teachers who encourage critical thought have high expectations by definition, whereas rote learning is the method generally favoured by those wanting to keep the masses unthinkingly subservient. 
Yet again Mr Gove accuses his critics of holding back children from poorer families, but if he truly believes his new curriculum will answer the problem of underachievement in disadvantaged groups, why does he keep dangling in front of schools the prospect of freedom from it through becoming academies? The bankruptcy of his position is as obvious as the emptiness of his insulting assertions.
Katherine Edwards, Ashtead, Surrey
As I history teacher I have used all sorts of gimmicks to consolidate the understanding and hold the interest of young learners. Presumably Mr Gove has never used metaphors or a simplified diagram as a springboard to understand a complex issue or even install a new household appliance? Obviously he studied for his A-levels by reading doctoral theses.
Ian McKenzie, Lincoln
Mr Gove’s puerile attack on teaching and teachers is the typical response from someone who has lost the argument and is backed into a corner. Faced with an almost overwhelming opposition to his “plans” for the national curriculum he has decided to counter by using exaggeration and ridicule in  a particularly cheap and unpleasant way.
The students, parents and teachers of this country deserve better than to be lectured by this arrogant pipsqueak whose main aim in life seems to be to show everyone how really clever he is, rather than to improve education for all.
Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh, Essex
Alex Ferguson’s missed chances
Hunter Davies (9 May) describes how Manchester United radically altered the game off the pitch but surely, with his power within football, Sir Alex Ferguson could have done so much more to change the game on it. In fact when one reflects on what he didn’t do, his legacy isn’t all that sublime.
He did nothing to discourage his team from behaving in shameful ways – screaming obscenities at referees, opponents and fans, diving and cheating, appealing for anything and everything and wasting everybody’s time and patience in so many different ways.
He could have done something to change it all and others would have taken notice. But he didn’t and now it’s going to be a long time before someone else has that much influence within the game.
James Vickers, Redcar, Cleveland
In your otherwise comprehensive coverage of the economic consequences of Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure you failed to mention its likely catastrophic impact on the British chewing-gum industry.
Adrian Lee, Yelverton,  Devon
Don’t cry over split infinitives
English used to be a highly inflected language, with masses of endings, tenses and so on. During the Middle Ages the stage of the language that we now call “Middle English” shed most of these and replaced them, where the sense demanded, with new constructions employing prepositions, modal verbs or other particles.
Thus in modern English we ended up with “to go” (and “will go”, “am going” etc). Pedants intervened with the so-called infinitive and told us not to “split” it (letters, 2 & 3 May), though  oddly enough they were happy enough to “split” compound tenses, eg “we will often go”.
The old true infinitive survives in a few constructions, such as “help me do the washing up”, which is just as “correct” as “help me to do the washing up”, and cannot be “split” as it has no need of the particle “to”.
What a lot of needless nonsense Victorian pedants landed on us!
Richard Thomas, Winchelsea,  East Sussex
The many faces  of Shirley Temple
In his article about child stars (9 May) Kaleem Aftab states that Shirley Temple “never matched her childhood success as an adult”. 
I am not sure how he would define success, but in her long political and business career as Shirley Temple Black she served on the boards of Walt Disney Corporation, Del Monte and the National Wildlife Federation, and was appointed a US representative to the UN (not a Goodwill Ambassador, an actual representative). She also served as the US ambassador to Ghana and then as the Ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989-92, during the time when Communism was disappearing from Europe and Czechoslovakia was splitting into the Czech and Slovak Republics.
Some might even say these successes, for a woman of the mid-20th century, are almost as impressive as having starred in several hit movies. But I guess that would be a matter of opinion.
Ellen Purton, Twickenham,  Middlesex
Ban bishops from House of Lords
Frank Field (10 May) has hit the nail right on the head about gesture politics from the Lords Spiritual. It is high time that the bishops were removed from the House of Lords and spent more of their time back in the diocese with their priests and parishioners. Ability to speak on matters that are dear to the various faith communities need not be limited to bishops of the Established Church; there are some perfectly good faith adherents on the benches of both sides of the Lords. If it transpires that there are gaps which need filling then by all means let’s ask the Archbishop to appoint replacements from the varied selection of different walks of life suggested by Field.
As far as the Church of England is concerned, the bishops should be spending their time in sorting out the scenario of too many church buildings, too many parishes and not enough worshippers. The House of Lords is far removed from the reality of ordinary parish life – more episcopal input at parish level would go a long way to making the Church relevant and more able to effectively preach and live out the Gospel message.
Reverend Canon David C Capron SSC, Stratford on Avon
Frank Field’s views regarding the Lords Spiritual are published on the same day that a former Archbishop of York is alleged to have covered up sex abuse in his diocese because his Church’s insular law did not require him to report the matter to the police.
It should be painfully clear, given the ongoing global scandal in both the Catholic and Anglican churches, that religious hierarchies are no longer the self-proclaimed absolute moral authority in the land. We hear a great deal from the likes of Lord Carey and Cardinal O’Brien about the importance of Christian conscience, how its exercise is so crucial to a Christian’s identity, and how secular society must grant it special privilege. 
Perhaps Lord Carey, and indeed Cardinal O’Brien, might need to explain where this much-vaunted Christian conscience was hiding in their churches if it is found that bishops were choosing not to report sexual abuse by their clergy, because they were either not required to or were told not to?
Or will we only see this Christian conscience championed in public again when it is time once more to deny public services to gay people or vulnerable women?
Alistair McBay, National Secular Society, Edinburgh
Farage is not a picture of health
Every time I see Nigel Farage he’s smoking a cigarette, not drinking a pint (letter, 7 May). Maybe his health policies need closer scrutiny. That said, the many butts in our streets are mildly less repellent than pavements covered in molten chewing gum, as during the recent heat.
Nicholas E Gough, Swindon, Wiltshire
Manners marred by mobile phones 
One is in serious conversation with someone who receives a text message. They immediately turn away from you to read the message and text back. Adding insult to injury, they then say, “Sorry, carry on,” all the while keeping all their attention focused on the little screen of their beloved toy.
Such behaviour, now so common that it is accepted as normal, seems to me about as rude as one can be, short of a smack in the mouth.  
Chris Payne, Lupa City, Philippines
Plucky ancestors
The Coalition Government appears to be taking a firm stance against the onslaught of European immigration. It is ironic that Cameron, Osborne and Clegg are all descended from relatively recent immigrants from Europe. Had their policies been in place from the 19th century they wouldn’t be here now. Of course, their ancestors would have been hard-working people keen to get on.
Carole Lewis, Solihull, West Midlands
A loss to cinema
The IAC Film and Video Institute has many reasons for mourning the passing of Ray Harryhausen (obituary, 8 May). For many years he was our patron and friend, willing to share his enthusiasm and skills with those of us in the amateur movie-making world. His personal hands-on creativity inspired many of our members, encouraging some to set their sights on becoming professional.
Thank you Ray.
Linda Gough, President, IAC Film and Video Institute, Sunderland
Doctor, doctor
With the furore surrounding the problems with the NHS111 line, perhaps we need to set up a NHS222 line where people can get a second opinion?
Alan Gregory, Stockpor


Has anybody come close to emulating Albert Trott’s stroke from 1899? There have been many suggestions for a worthy successor
Sir, Mike Atherton’s lovely piece on heavy hitting and the chances of a batsman clearing the pavilion at Lord’s, (“Heavyweights push the boundaries of big hitting”, Sport, May 10), was inaccurate in only one detail. Kieron Pollard, playing for Somerset, did clear the apex of the pavilion roof with his mighty hit of three years ago.
My wife and I were there in the back row at the very top of the building. The ball just made it over the top of the roof and landed with much clattering next to the door to the southern tower on the terrace behind. The confusion arose because it was a floodlit game and the press, up at the far end of the ground in the media centre, would have found it hard to accurately track a ball rising above the brightly lit arena, and assumed that because the ball had been thrown back on to the ground from the upper tier of the pavilion tower that was where it had landed. Not so.
Robert Bruce
London W9
Sir, In Mike Atherton’s excellent article on modern-day cricket bats, he mentions Albert Trott hitting the ball over the Lord’s pavilion in 1899. He also refers to Kieron Pollard coming closest when he landed a ball on the top tier.
As a 12-year-old in 1945, I was at Lord’s for England v The Dominions and saw Keith Miller hit a ball from Eric Hollies on to the roof of the pavilion, described at the time as the greatest hit since Albert Trott’s. Bearing in mind that he was using an old-fashioned thin-edged bat (possibly borrowed) and had probably been out partying till the early hours, I would rate that hit as equal to, if not better than, Pollard’s effort.
Peter Hart
Pinner, Middx
Sir, Mike Atherton says that, three seasons ago, the West Indian Kieron Pollard came closest to clearing the Lord’s pavilion since Albert Trott did it in 1899, when he landed a ball on the top tier.
In the Centenary Test match in 1980, Wisden records that the Australian captain “[Kim] Hughes made the most spectacular stroke of the match when he danced down the pitch to hit the lively Old on to the top deck of the pavilion”.
Which one went the farthest back?
Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berks

Plans to break up the Mendham Collection will mean that many precious medieval manuscripts are lost to the nation
Sir, We are seriously concerned about plans which the Law Society of England and Wales has to break up the Mendham Collection, starting with a sale of 142 lots at Sotheby’s on June 5. Many items will doubtless be lost to the nation as a result.
The collection, formed by Joseph Mendham (1769-1856), a Church of England clergyman at Sutton Coldfield, comprises 12 medieval and post-medieval manuscripts and 5,000 books published between 1450 and 1850, many not held in the British Library or other national collections. It constitutes a rich and coherent resource for both Protestant and Catholic history.
The collection was gifted by Sophia Mendham to the society in 1869 on the understanding that it would be kept together indefinitely, and accepted by the society on that basis. Had the society not accepted this provision, the collection would have been gifted to King’s College London. More than a century later, in recognition of the collection’s national importance, the British Library awarded a grant to catalogue it with the expectation that it would not subsequently be dispersed.
We understand the collection is not central to the society’s current purposes. Since 1984 the society has deposited it at Canterbury Cathedral Library, under a loan agreement between the cathedral, the University of Kent, and the society. At Canterbury it has been fully accessible for research. The agreement does not expire until December 31, 2013.
We deeply regret the haste with which the Law Society is acting, and its dismissal of concerns voiced by interested and expert parties. We earnestly hope it will wish to explore alternative options to the Sotheby’s auction, with the attendant damage to scholarship and national heritage.
Clive Field, President, Religious Archives Group; Diarmaid Macculloch, Professor of the History of the Church, Oxford; Roly Keating, Chief Executive, British Library

Although the campaign is grateful for support, there were a couple of errors in our report which need to be corrected
Sir, In his excellent article “Pardon for Irish troops who fought the Nazis” (May 8), your correspondent asserted that “they were found guilty by military tribunal” and referred to the use of “special powers in 1949”, which is incorrect. There was no court martial convened to try the returning soldiers, and allegations of desertion should have been adjudicated upon within the Irish military court system and not by a political cabal. The date of introduction of the special powers was on August 8, 1945, and 1949 was the year it was amended — and not the other way round. Irrespective of this, many thanks to all concerned throughout the UK and Northern Ireland for your messages of support.
Peter Mulvany
Co-ordinator, Irish Soldiers Pardons Campaign (WW2), Dublin

When showing an image of a dangerous mushroom, it is important to illustrate the whole fungus rather than just the cap
Sir, The image of the death cap mushroom with your report of the tragic death of Christine Hale (“Gardener, 57, died after adding toxic mushroom to can of Campbell’s soup”, May 10) is dangerously misleading. Only occasionally does this species have fragments of membrane on its cap and when it does these are usually fewer, larger, thin white patches.
Furthermore, by showing only the upper part, the distinctive cup-shaped sack around the base (shown in the picture above) cannot be seen. Please give those who enjoy eating wild-picked mushrooms at least a sporting chance.
Dr Tony Leech
County Fungus Recorder, Norfolk

If the Government goes ahead and increases the ratio of babies and toddlers to staff, it will be an accident waiting to happen
Sir, It is outrageous that the Government is even thinking about increasing the ratio of babies and toddlers to staff just to cut costs (report, May 10). It is incredibly hard managing three screaming babies at one time, let alone four. Can you imagine six inquisitive toddlers who want to explore everywhere with only one set of hands and one pair of eyes watching them? I’m afraid that this would be a major accident waiting to happen. Please can we put the safety of our children first.
Tracy Ambidge
Esher, Surrey

SIR – I am currently reading The Country Formerly Known as Great Britain, by Ian Jack. Its substance was brought home to me on a recent holiday in the Wye Valley.
The awakening of the countryside in spring was spoiled by litter in the lanes and by the dilapidated state of the iconic red telephone boxes, which were retained for their historic value but have become shamefully neglected.
Does no one have a duty to maintain them, and does the local community care so little as to allow their dereliction to continue along with the roadside litter?
A voluntary litter-pick and lobbying of the local council would be a start.
By way of encouragement and contrast, the red boxes on the Isle of Man are beautifully kept, including picking out the crown in gold leaf.

SIR – I’m not surprised that A&E departments are overwhelmed. My GP’s surgery seems to have an attitude of discouraging patients to attend.
I have rung several times for an appointment, to be asked “Is it urgent?” I’m not a doctor, so how would I know? On one memorable occasion, I replied “non-urgent”, and was told that it would be several weeks before I could see my GP.
Even if I claim that it is urgent, it is still several days until I can get an appointment – or even a telephone consultation. I’ve given up trying.
Ben White
Congresbury, Somerset
SIR – Problems at A&E departments are not due to GPs. At the Wycombe general hospital in Buckinghamshire, the A&E department closed, and all patients now have to travel 20 miles or so to Stoke Mandeville hospital.
Related Articles
The sad neglect of rural red telephone boxes
10 May 2013
This means that all emergency patients from the High Wycombe area have been added to those from the Aylesbury area. No additional staff or facilities have been added to Stoke Mandeville, and this has put a tremendous burden on its staff. The lack of foresight in all this is beyond belief.
Kenneth Ross
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
SIR – The worrying state of the NHS is reflected in our town. With a population of 26,000, largely elderly, there are no health facilities. A day centre has recently been closed and the withdrawal of facilities at Eastbourne general hospital means that some patients have to travel to Hastings.
The two GPs’ surgeries do not have enough doctors for the number of patients, and waiting more than 10 days for a routine appointment is not unusual.
Two hundred of us recently marched through the town in protest, but despite continuing efforts by our MP, Norman Baker, the future looks bleak.
Diana Crook
Seaford, East Sussex
SIR – Last month I was in Austria and needed emergency treatment. I noticed a sign in every clinic, surgery and hospital: “Show your European health insurance card at reception.” So I did, and so did everyone else.
The card, the old E111, saved embarrassment and arguments for the staff, and neutralised anyone ready to mutter about queue-jumpers, illegals or health-care tourists.
In Britain, it just needs organising, publicising, and sticking to. But these are things our system is not good at.
Richard Collet
Maidstone, Kent
SIR – This country cannot afford to maintain our National Health Service in its present form for much longer. People who can pay must contribute at least towards their treatment. Too much is taken for granted by too many of us.
C L Brown
Lib Dem veto over EU
SIR – David Cameron (report, May 9) wrote to John Baron stating that legislating in this Parliament for an in/out referendum is not possible as it is not in the Coalition Agreement. Neither is same-sex marriage.
It appears that if the Liberal Democrats agree, a Bill goes forward, if they disagree the idea is dropped. Having been soundly defeated on the Alternative Vote, the Lib Dems refused to support boundary changes, which were in the Coalition Agreement. Who is running this country?
Chris Peacock
Dereham, Norfolk
SIR – Pedro Diogo (Letters, May 9) says that the European Court of Human Rights and the European Union are unrelated.
While the two bodies may be mutually independent, ECHR rulings are mandated on EU member states by the Lisbon Treaty. This makes Theresa May’s assertion that Britain may consider leaving the ECHR impossible unless we first leave the EU.
Roger Smith
Meppershall, Bedfordshire
SIR – In the event of Britain leaving the EU, will all the migrants from Eastern Europe, including of course the Poles, be obliged to go home?
Michael Nicholson
Grayswood, Surrey
SIR – Mary Riddell (Comment, May 8) uses the metaphor of Britain being eaten alive by a bear if it exits from the EU.
A more apt image is that of Jonah and the whale. We have already been swallowed by the EU and now seek regurgitation.
Peter Haworth
Clitheroe, Lancashire
Council tax rapacity
SIR –You report (May 9) that Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the Local Government Association, has said that caps on local tax rises will result in many councils failing their communities.
This cap has in fact protected many communities from the rapacity, greed, waste and sky-high salaries for the higher echelons in local service. The cap is the only protection against the council fat cats in pursuit of their own ends.
David Broughton
Woodborough, Wiltshire
Single measles vaccine
SIR – Damian Thompson (Comment, May 4) calls me a “scaremonger” on the subject of the MMR vaccine. I believe he is mistaken. The article he attacks was published nearly three years after the launch of the Wakefield study that began the controversy, which was taken seriously by many different parts of the media, and had not yet been discredited.
It stated unequivocally: “There is no proof that MMR causes or has ever caused autism, or the severe bowel disorder Crohn’s disease.” It was mainly a plea for the availability on the NHS of the single measles vaccine to ensure continuing widespread immunity, a policy I still believe would have been wise.
Peter Hitchens
London W8
Give a cat a bad name …
SIR – Further to your report of Marks & Spencer refusing to send a greetings message to a man called Dick (May 9), a friend of mine received flowers via the M&S service and the card read: “With love from Steve, Kerry and the cat (name too rude to print).”
The cat’s name was Puss.
John G Randall
Wigan, Lancashire
Saving billions
SIR – I always knew our programme to reform the Civil Service and improve efficiency would ruffle the feathers of a few top civil servants (Sue Cameron, “Even the bonking machine is in revolt”, Comment, May 9). But our mission is to cut waste and concentrate scarce resources on the services on which people rely.
Hundreds of thousands of civil servants are working to deliver the Government’s reforms, save taxpayers’ money and get Britain back on the rise. They want to see change, and their talents fully applied. We’ve listened and, with reform-minded Civil Service leaders, we are pressing ahead.
Sue Cameron’s “senior mandarins” complain that they are asked about their staff numbers and property portfolio. I think Telegraph readers will be shocked that this basic data didn’t exist before the last general election.
She quotes complaints from government suppliers. No surprise, when we’ve saved taxpayers a billion pounds by reforming procurement and renegotiating fat contracts signed under Labour. This is just what a competent government must do.
The Civil Service’s role is to implement agreed government policies. That’s exactly what my brilliant Efficiency and Reform Group officials are doing: reforming procurement, selling off unnecessary property, reducing headcount, slashing spend on consultants and saving billions.
It’s not glamorous work; it’s often difficult. These hard-working civil servants deserve the support of “senior mandarins”, rather than being trashed in poisonous anonymous briefings.
Francis Maude MP (Con)
Minister for the Cabinet Office
London SW1
Old friends
SIR – Visiting my mother-in-law this week, we persuaded her to phone her oldest and best friend (Letters, May 7), which she did, despite being rather deaf, and exchanged news.
They met on her first day at grammar school, when she was 11. My mother-in law is now 101 and her best friend 102.
Steven White
Didcot, Oxfordshire
Young head
SIR – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten blackstrap molasses (Letters, May 9), and, at 64, I don’t have enough grey in my hair to worry about. It’s in the genes.
Marcia MacLeod
London NW6
Local people aren’t being heard over planning
SIR – I would like to correct Nick Boles, the planning minister, in his opinion of Nimbys (report, May 7). I am not against development, but I am strongly against the loss of our local amenities, such as shops, allotments and schools.
I am also confused by his argument that people should have “constructive rows” with officials to ensure that better housing is built in the countryside. In my village we have petitioned the Queen, debated with local councillors at meetings and in discussions on local BBC radio, and even produced a Local Plan, all to no avail.
I am not against development, but I am not for the disorganised mess that passes for planning these days.
Kevin Barry
Englefield Green, Surrey
SIR – Nick Boles is urging Nimbys to liaise with local authorities when they are drawing up their land allocation plans. What planet does he live on?
Residents and Grange town council have been trying to do just this during public consultations by South Lakeland district council (SLDC) in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and during the first part of a public hearing into the soundness of SLDC’s proposed land allocation plan.
The result? SLDC’s amended land allocation plan for Grange-over-Sands and the Cartmel peninsula has not addressed any of the serious problems raised.
Grange-over-Sands is a unique coastal resort; the town’s economy depends on tourism. SLDC’s proposals are to build houses on virtually every green space, all of which will need new junctions on a short stretch of the main through-road. This road already has serious traffic bottle-necks.
Perhaps Mr Boles needs to talk to constituents to find out what is really happening and why people are so angry.
Valerie Kennedy
Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria

Irish Times

Sir, – I am concerned that parents, who generally know their children best, are virtually left out of the debate on early childhood education (“Ministers back extra year of free pre-school”, Front page, May 9th).
Parents have not been asked whether they want to send their young children to playschool five days each week. I preferred to send one of my children just two days per week, but for two years; this option no longer exists for my youngest child because there are no places except for the State-sponsored five days.
There is also scant evidence that early childhood education is even beneficial, except in underprivileged populations; naturally such children should be targeted for intervention and education as necessary.
In the case of middle-class taxpayers, families in which one parent works and the other stays at home are heavily subsidising (through onerous taxes and child benefit cuts) the childcare and playschool of dual-income couples who usually take home more money than the one-income families. All to no demonstrable benefit for the children.
Meanwhile, the essential contribution to child development made by at-home parents is at best ignored, and at worst denigrated by representatives of the State.
How disappointing that in these straitened economic times, when the rights of children are being highlighted, an ideology obsessed with gender equality and forcing parents into the workforce is willing to spend money to pry children out of the arms of their own parents. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Donal Donovan (Opinion, May 9th) is economical with the truth and presents an unconvincing analysis. In his praise for ongoing measures to reduce the budget deficit (measures which disproportionately hit the lower paid in our society), he omits the fact of no small relevance that the Irish people are paying more per head towards the bailout of private banks (native and foreign) than any other EU country and that this is our main expense “going forward”.
In my opinion this is why we have record unemployment, miserable growth and a hopeless future. Mr Donovan appears to agree with the German Bundesbank that governments and the citizens they represent should pay for the losses of private banks. Does he (and his set) think that the rest of us in this failed, bailed State (and beyond) will acquiesce to this injustice indefinitely? I don’t.
In Ireland we need to restore the faith of our citizens in the management of their country before any meaningful recovery happens.
This mess will certainly end, hopefully sooner than later, better peacefully than violently, in our finally mustering the national guts to once again properly regulate our own financial institutions and in our telling the international chancers to find another set of losers. – Yours, etc,
The Beeches,

Sir, – John Waters bemoans the frequent inclusion of homosexual marriage, abortion and euthanasia in newspaper columns at the cost of “real” news (Opinion, May 10th).
Aside from the fact The Irish Times only offers a very small proportion of its newspaper to these topics on any given day or even week, they are hardly the concerns of special interest groups who are given disproportionate print space.
Homosexual marriage does not just affect homosexual people, but their families.
How many families in Ireland have no homosexual member, either a sibling, father, mother, cousin, aunt or uncle? Abortion, the right to control human reproduction, is hardly an issue affecting a minority. Similarly euthanasia can potentially affect every person in Ireland by means of disease or accident to a loved one or oneself. These issues are documented in print because they carry fierce importance to a large number of people.
How they are dealt with by governments of Ireland or not dealt with will affect hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens and residents lives – both their physical and mental health.
The discussion and treatment of these issues was until recent years stifled by religious institutions cloistered from the real world and its bitter cruelty, discrimination and misfortune.
Whatever one’s political opinions are, be they liberal or conservative, these issues must be discussed, dissected and understood. They are not going away. Ever. – Yours, etc,
Fortfield Road,
Dublin 6W.

Sir, – It is very difficult to see how the Government will be able to come to an agreement with the unions without making a sensible compromise with them.
I suggest that as all members of the Dáil, including ministers, are the highest paid in Europe with the exception of those in the German parliament, that an offer is made that in return for the unions accepting the necessary reductions in their salaries, etc, the Government will make similar cuts to theirs. I know some reductions have already been made, but their rates of pay are still far too high. – Yours etc,
The Georgian Village,
Dublin 15.
Sir, – I wish to respond to and correct Alf Mac Lochlainn (May 10th) in relation to 1916 relatives and Easter Rising commemorations.
There is no self-appointed committee of relatives of the 1916 leaders involved in commemorations that I am aware of – although given the arbitrary and unannounced changes made to this year’s Arbour Hill Commemoration by Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter perhaps there ought to be.
There are, however, concerned relatives of the Signatories to the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, who as a matter of principle see it as their duty to defend the integrity and standing of the 1916 National Monument in Moore Street/Moore Lane. That monument, now derelict and decaying, purports to honour all the men and women of 1916. Six 1916 leaders including the brothers Pearse spent their last hours of freedom here before their execution by firing squad. The relatives who wish to see the State honour its commitment to protect and preserve it in full have no wish or desire to be seen to be “a hereditary elite” as Mr Mac Lochlainn suggests – we simply ask and expect the State to do its duty.
Further, it is not accurate to state that April 24th passes unnoticed. For some years now a group of citizens have been calling for that very day to be officially recognised as “Republic Day”. To their great credit each year they celebrate that date with a ceremony at Arbour Hill followed by a wreath-laying at the GPO. As the closest living relative of Padraig Pearse, Mr Mac Lochlainn’s attendance at this event would, of course, be very much appreciated. – Yours, etc,
Oxford Road,

Irish Independent
• A new report shows a widening gap in a two-tier school system (Irish Independent, May 7) where pupils in fee-paying and all-Irish schools are more likely to go on to college than pupils in disadvantaged areas who are more likely to drop out of school early.
Also in this section
Cardinal Brady’s abortion intervention no help
President Higgins was simply doing his job
Abortion debate
Education is the most precious gift you can give a child, a gift where equality and encouragement are essential for the future of every child no matter what background they come from.
Education is a gift for life where one day these pupils will become doctors, nurses, teachers, politicians and a future president.
For a nation that calls itself a land of saints and scholars, these problems need to be addressed so that pupils in disadvantaged areas can reach their full potential in life.
Among the issues to be addressed are bullying, the necessity for extra special-needs teachers and extra resources to make schools happy environments in which to learn.
Many people in their 50s and 60s can’t read or write as many left school early through no choice of their own. As a result, they struggled through their lives and felt useless and inadequate at many things.
They were just left at the back of the class, forgotten while the best were sent up to the front of class.
The State failed these people at the time and it suited the government to have them illiterate so they could walk all over them.
Let’s not repeat history by putting pupils from disadvantaged areas to the back of the class with dunces hats on.
It’s time to move them to the front of the class for a brighter, fairer future.
Kathleen Ryan
Springfield, Tallaght
Smart Alex
• Alex Ferguson would never have seen the wonderful rise in the fortunes of Manchester Utd if it was not for the greatness of his captain Roy Keane, who was pivotal in the rebuilding of that team. Lest we forget.
Robert Sullivan
Bantry, Co Cork
The numbers game
• What do Pope Francis (born 1936) and David Moyes (born 1963) have in common? Even though they were born 27 years apart, their numerology number is the number 1. 1+9+3+6=19 then 1+9=10 and finally 1+0=1. The similarity does not end there. Both of their predecessors are permitted to retain an honorary title of the job they gave up, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Manager Emeritus Alex Ferguson.
Manchester United, according to Deloitte, has 75 million fans worldwide and by some estimates up to 330 million fans. The Catholic Church has, according to the ‘CIA World Factbook’ and ‘2012 Pontifical Yearbook’, 1.2 billion fans or followers throughout the world.
So both Pope Francis and David Moyes will be in charge of the number one teams in their area of expertise, all because their numerology number is number “1”. . . and so it goes.
Kevin Devitte
Westport, Co Mayo
Bitter pill
• There has been much debate in Ireland over the last year on the availability (and costs) of new drugs like Ipilimumab (Ippi), which is a novel drug for the treatment of malignant melanoma.
A greater understanding of the biology of human disease has heralded a new wave of drugs that are designed to “hit” a particular abnormal gene or pathway in a cancer cell. The most successful of these drugs has undoubtedly been Imatinib Mesylate, a drug that blocks a mutated protein in Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML).
This drug was introduced in 2001, following a highly fruitful collaboration between the pharmaceutical industry and US academic Brian Druker and has become the gold standard for the treatment of CML. Ten-year survival has increased from 20pc to 80pc and CML is now less like a cancer and more like diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, where continuing therapy (the drug must be taken constantly) can ensure prolonged survival. It is an excellent example of how personalised medicine can make a real difference to the patient.
But are the increasing costs associated with these new drugs acceptable, particularly in the current economic climate? Last week, 100 international experts in CML, including Mr Drucker, published a revealing article in ‘Blood’, the Journal of the American Society for Hematology. In this article, they argue that the current pricing of cancer drugs is becoming unsustainable, particularly in the US. In 2001, when the drug for CML was introduced, its costs were high, approximately $30,000 (€22,900) per patient per year. One of the reasons for this high price was to pay for the costs of development of a new drug, which is estimated at around $1bn (€763m). However, fast forward to 2012 and the cost has risen over three-fold to $92,000 (€70,000) per patient per year, despite the fact that the annual sales in the US were initially over $900m (€685m), meaning that developmental costs would have been recouped within the second year of sales. Fortunately in Europe, due to governments pressing for bulk-buying deals from pharmaceutical companies, the cost is lower than in the US, but it is still a significant burden on the health budget.
While innovation must be rewarded and the development of personalised medicine holds significant promise for cancer patients, there needs to be a balance between a just price and excessive profiteering.
Prof Mark Lawler
Kilmainham, Dublin 8
Mind your language
• You reported on May 7 that those attending “fee-charging schools and those who receive an all-Irish education are most likely to go straight to college from school” and that “pupils attending schools in disadvantaged areas are most likely to drop out”.
However, you failed to note that Irish-speaking schools also operate in disadvantaged areas and, in these areas, provide far better results than the norm.
Also, if disadvantaged areas are stripped out, Irish-speaking schools also outperform fee-paying schools, which do not operate in disadvantaged areas.
Cllr C Enright
Downpatrick, Co Down
Quelle surprise!
• So our EU Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn has grandly announced that she intends to advocate a ‘No’ vote in the referendum on scrapping the Seanad.
This is hardly surprising given that the scrapping of the second chamber will mean one less overly remunerated bolt-hole for failed politicians (and EU commissioners).
Roger A Blackburn
Abbey Hill, Naul, Co Dublin
Taxing times
• First, people in our governmental system are highly paid by the taxes of decent workers.
As thanks, they make the decent people poor by screwing up the economy (and almost everything else). Then they fine them for some trivial offence (let us not forget the serious criminals with multiple offences walking free).
Then they imprison the newly poor people for not being able to afford the fine. Then they fine the few remaining taxpayers by making them pay for the imprisonment.
The highly paid bureaucrats making such decisions would have a hard time explaining them rationally to the staff of my local psychiatric hospital.
Dick Barton
Tinahely, Co Wicklow
Irish Independent

• Cardinal Sean Brady seems to have acquired a knack for doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. His interventions in the abortion debate have helped neither church nor State. Whatever view one holds on the intended legislation, creating moral panic does not inspire people to the deeper levels of reflection that our country needs.
Also in this section
Let’s move disadvantaged to front of class
President Higgins was simply doing his job
Abortion debate
I find the hidden threat of excommunication particularly odious. Here we have the most subtle exercise of power.
The tendency to reduce the church to a one-issue institution looks more like a secular branding exercise than an affirmation of faith. The richness of Christ’s revelation of what it is to be truly human gets lost in a sea of self-righteousness.
Ireland, with all its faults, is driven by the overall goodness of its people. It has been mercilessly abused by politicians, bankers and developers but has never lost its soul. Its people can be trusted to do what they see fit and not be driven by fear but by compassion for all who become involved in making judgments about the life of the living and the unborn.
Questions surrounding the issue of abortion require a moral conversion that demands a more thoughtful, spiritual and persistent consideration of our obligations to one another – born or unborn – particularly to the poor who often have difficulty providing for children already born.
The fact that the bishops got it so badly wrong in the case of the sexual abuse scandal suggests they would be well advised to tread carefully in their concerted amplification of outrage.
Philip O’Neill
Edith Road, Oxford
Long day’s red sunset
• So, Sir Alex is to retire after more than a quarter century of glory at Old Trafford. He actually has much in common with an Irish summer, “reigning” for the last 26 years.
Sean Kelly
Newtown Hill, Tramore
Cult of political jargon
• Many systems of national co-existence have been tried. Democracy, communism, fascism, federalism and a plethora of combinations have all been tested and found wanting. How can this be?
I think perhaps the crux of the problem lies in the centralisation of power. Regardless of what system is employed, eventually someone gets to the position where they have no boss. This is fully aided and abetted by the strange human condition of idolatry.
When one thinks of the political posters and all the “good news” coming out of politicians’ soundbites, regardless of economic conditions, one could be forgiven for viewing our political parties as cults. Is this why austerity is being so slavishly adhered to by the government parties? Are the voters of this nation in the same position as those silent victims who once were at the hands of a violent and secretive Catholic Church?
I ask this question because of the recent furore surrounding the comments of Michael D Higgins. Has anybody considered the fact that as First Citizen, Mr Higgins, above all others, is entitled to free speech? Furthermore the role of President carries the duty of upholding our Constitution. To gag our President is to gag every citizen in the nation.
Surely if our President, a man of vast experience, says something that may be awry to political decisions then our Government must listen.
For the Government to ignore the soundings of our President is to self-confer an air of infallible judgement on their deliberations. Even the Pope has the courtesy to accept the observations of his peers.
Dermot Ryan
Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway
System is crumbling
• David McWilliams wrote a very sombre account of China’s future economic expectations. It was a very true and salutary warning of how widespread the effects of a China collapse might be and how difficult economic survival could become.
Mr McWilliams makes reference to the “mainstream” of economists not having “twigged” what has happened and is happening in China. I suggest the mainstream of economists – including Mr McWilliams – have not twigged a much more fundamental change at the very core of economic activity which makes growth, as economists know it, impossible in the future.
A little biological knowledge would be useful in economic analysis. Growth is a vital and beneficial process but can only continue as long as it is necessary and possible. Since the dawn of history, growth has been necessary because we could never produce sufficient numbers of anything to meet the needs of the human race. But not any more!
Through technology, growth has reached a stage of overproduction capability in practically every field of activity. Goods and services are available in greater quantities than we can consume. We tried to stimulate growth in Ireland through incentives to build; the process proved utterly cancerous as it is now proving to be in China. In the 21st Century, growth on the scale economies need is impossible. We simply have no option except to modify our economic philosophy to adapt to minimal growth.
There is another aspect of economics the economists have not twigged. Work is being eliminated on a colossal scale and the process is speeding up. Unless the mainstream acknowledges these realities and begins to devise methods of surviving without growth and job creation, China will be the least of our problems.
Padraic Neary
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo
Awaiting an apology
• In the 1980s I did my inadequate best to defend a soldier facing a court martial for desertion. The soldier (now deceased) was convicted and dismissed “with ignominy”. This precluded him from any state employment. I will supply the particulars to the minister on request.
This man surely deserves a pardon too, at least he did not desert in wartime and enlist in an army that might very easily have invaded his country.
Captain Padraig Lenihan (retired)
Dangan Upper, Galway
Stand up to barbarity
• As a campaigner against blood sports, I am delighted to hear that Sonora has become the first Mexican state to ban bull fighting. This is a cowardly practice that involves the torture of an animal for the benefit of people who enjoy watching its slow and agonised death.
Our own Government should take note of this development and also of the fact that the ban was imposed amid frenzied claims that it was “a grand tradition”, that local economies depend on it and that the bulls were well looked after prior to the fights.
If these claims sound familiar it is because the same hollow excuses have been offered in defence of hare coursing in Ireland. Apologists say it should be left alone as it is a part of our culture, that people in certain counties would have nothing much else to do without it, that it brings money into some rural areas.
It’s about time the politicians here found the same courage the Sonoran legislators have shown. The arguments in favour of hare coursing are pure bull, while every humane instinct cries out for its abolition.
John Fitzgerald
Callan, Co Kilkenny
Irish Independent


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