Saturday's Letters: Don't spare sentiment on repellent tree rats

HOW refreshing it was to read Malcolm Barker's trenchant, and entirely correct views on grey squirrels and the difficulty of getting rid of them (Yorkshire Post, August 24).

Let me begin by making one thing clear to those woolly-minded sentimentalists who would have us believe that the culling of grey squirrels is somehow offensive. It is not; there is nothing cute, cuddly or appealing about these odious tree rats.

They are not the loveable Tufty figure remembered with such affection from so many childhoods – that was a red squirrel, a native British animal, which not incidentally has been brought to the point of extinction by its grey rival.

The grey squirrel is a vicious, destructive predator, a menace to woodland, horticulture and garden alike, an interloper in the British eco-system that also poses yet another threat to many of our bird species which are already under pressure from a rapidly changing environment.

People should not be squeamish about doing their bit to keep the numbers of grey squirrels down. It is perfectly legal to buy and operate squirrel traps – readily available on the internet – that either catch the animal alive or dispatch it quickly.

Grey squirrels are classified as rodents – in the view of the law, exactly the same as rats or mice, both of which the overwhelming majority of people would be horrified to find in their homes or

gardens, and would have not a second thought about catching and killing with a trap. Why then this utterly nonsensical attitude towards the repellent grey tree rat?

I note that the RSPCA now appears to have started proceedings against a gentleman in Northumberland, who drowned a grey squirrel to test the law on what is and what is not a humane method of dispatching them.

I have often contributed to the work of the RSPCA; I shall do so no more.

There are many animal welfare issues in this country to keep that charity fully occupied without the perverse persecution of a man who got rid of a rodent. More power to him; doubtless he will have his day in court. Common sense dictates that he should win.

From: Benjamin Henderson, York Road, Leeds.

From: William Snowden, Butterbowl Gardens, Farnley Ring Road, Leeds.

HOW eagerly Malcolm Barker aligns himself with those cohorts of wildlife vigilantes who seek to demonise and destroy the grey squirrel: as if cruelty were an honourable pursuit.

One wonders which hapless species will be next on the hit list for mass extermination. Given Mr Barker's stipulated criteria, the choice is infinite.

Red squirrels also damage trees, and snatch birds' eggs and fledglings from their nests.

Songbirds predate beautiful butterflies and bees.

The natural world consists of an intricately woven web of predators and prey.

There is, however, one particularly pestilential species which wreaks havoc on the natural world: uprooting hedgerows, felling forests, poisoning rivers, lakes and seas – and even the air we breathe.

A most virulent "pest" which stalks and predates all living things... homo sapiens.

Perhaps man should be "culled". But then, he already is, and by his own hand. And he calls it war, Mr Barker... "war!"

Make these offenders pay cash penalty

From: Mrs Mary Bruce, North Marine Road, Scarborough.

I AM surely not alone in being disgusted and depressed by the vile spectacle of the Blackpool heroin addict who chose to urinate on that town's war memorial, not least in her behaviour upon leaving court (Yorkshire Post, August 20).

Not only did this appalling creature choose to swear at a crowd of war veterans who had gathered to witness the sentencing, but a male companion chose to offer them a Nazi salute before jeering and laughing. I am afraid I can find no other word to describe this pair apart from scum.

They are joined in that category by the woman who some weeks ago chose to take her children on a day-trip to the funeral of the murderer and child abuser Raoul Moat in the North-East, expressing her admiration for him after he killed and innocent man and blinded a brave police officer.

These shameful excuses for human beings all have something in common; they live on state handouts, paid for by those of us who do – or have spent a life doing until retirement – an honest day's work.

Might I make a suggestion to our relatively new coalition Government? The legislative programme should include a clause amending the rules governing benefits so that they can be withdrawn if the recipient outrages public decency, by for example, desecrating a war memorial or hero-worshipping a killer. That would surely wipe the smiles off their faces.

Attlee lesson for Clegg

From: Nick Thomas-Symonds, Carreg Fawr, Manor Road, Abersychan, Torfaen.

I REFER to the letter written about my book, Attlee: A Life in Politics by the Liberal Democrat MP David Ward (Yorkshire Post August 11), which states: "Labour's leadership candidates should look to the political life of Attlee for advice – it seems to me that Nick Clegg got there before them."

In 1945, Attlee faced what the economist Keynes called a "financial Dunkirk" – arguably worse than the economic situation we face now. He did not conclude that the answer to Britain's economic problems was a severe reduction in public spending, and went on to create the modern welfare state and the NHS. Attlee believed in the empowering role of the state – particularly in helping the poorest and most vulnerable, something he had fought for since his days working in London's East End before 1914.

The lesson Nick Clegg should draw is that indiscriminate slash-and-burn of public services will hit the most vulnerable hardest.

Mammon is the king

From: Wes Overin, Westfield Lane, Wyke, Bradford, West Yorkshire.

THREE cheers for Canon Michael Storey (Yorkshire Post, August 19). He has hit the nail on the head. This is a man who has been there, done that, and knows what it is all about.

We oldsters always worked well for a decent wage.

Today's inflated salaries for those supposedly high flyers are more than sufficient to keep body and soul together without throwing in top-ups, eg bonuses.

Excess leads to excess. Go back in history and see how civilisations perished when Mammon was king.

Make lawyers responsible for justice, not taxpayers

From: John Wilson, Wilsons Solicitors, New Road Side, Horsforth, Leeds.

PLEASE allow me to respond to Grahame Stowe (Yorkshire Post, August 20) and his opinion column.

The legal profession is in denial about its own historic abuse of the generosity of the taxpayer through legal aid. Most of the so called "unmet legal need" would not even exist if legal aid lawyers and their ilk did not go about touting for it.

Then, unmet before it supposedly starts, it gets flogged to death in the interests of a payday from the government. All "in the interests of justice" as such lawyers are rather too fond of saying. Scrap legal aid altogether and make justice the responsibility of the legal profession not the taxpayer. We are learned and a profession are we not? Do not professions have ethics? We lawyers claim we have very fine ones but when it comes to government funds they all seem to disappear as we gorge ourselves from a tap of government largesse. Shame on us.

For all that, legal aid represents about 10 per cent of the profession's fee income. Hardly a huge slice. In these difficult times lets do our bit by foregoing it. Of course, Mr Stowe will say that lots of law firms will go bust. That is because this 10 per cent is unevenly distributed among the profession (in some firms it is nothing, in others 100 per cent). But is this healthy? Recipients of legal aid are supposed to get the same service as others. Oh yes? The inner city legal aid joint the same as the big city boys? Come off it. The elephant in the legal profession's room is that the idea of publicly funded lawyers ensuring equal justice to all went out of the window a very long time ago. But we still go along with it anyway because we still have the pound signs in our eyes.

More fundamentally, why should we lawyers be paid by the government anyway? More and more cases nowadays are actually against the government. Fancy going to court against a huge corporate opponent who is paying your lawyers as well as theirs? And setting the rules about what they can and cannot do in pushing your case? No, me neither. We lawyers are very hot on avoiding conflicts of interest, but not where the Queen's shilling is concerned. Money trumps principle again.

Here's the answer to it all: scrap legal aid, and let the lawyers (all of them) chip in instead. Let us be a proud profession once more, reclaim our independence, and really fight for the little man.

Let's banish the computer pests

From: Alexander Ogilvy, East Parade, Heworth, York, North Yorkshire.

LARGE amounts of money, time and trouble could be saved by stopping all the illegal "hacking" computer fraud, paedophilia and infantile name-fouling nuisances which infest networks and make life more difficult for so many people. The previous government seemed unwilling or incapable of doing anything about it (Yorkshire Post, August 24).

Persistent offenders need to be traced, stopped and banned from computers as soon as possible and punished. They have been allowed to run amok for many years and should not be allowed to use computers anywhere in future in order to avoid further trouble. Funds need to be made available.

The sooner action is taken, the better.

Fine wine

From: Carla McFarlane, Ilkley.

I'M dismayed that tomorrow's programme will be the final episode of Last of the Summer Wine. Given the paucity of light entertainment programmes, does anyone know how the BBC will replace this programme in the future? Repeats, or even more reality television series that have, frankly, become wearisome.

They were a reasonable idea a few years ago. They are now monotonous. It's why the BBC should be paying refunds to all those who pay the licence fee.

True colours

From: G Ellison, Hawthorn Avenue, Sheffield.

FOR 18 years after four general election wins on the trot, all the Tories did was implement cutback after cutback with millions and millions of job losses.

Wages were decreased through them scrapping the Wages Councils. There were constant VAT rises, including the fuel escalator; billions added to the welfare state cost; and mass migration, after promises by Thatcher to end it all for good, if elected.

So what's new about this coalition Government? The Lib Dems have shown their true colours.

Killing time

From: Rita Brook, Green Lane, Lofthouse, Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

COSMETIC surgery and then a day's shopping in York and lunch with a friend – an unrealised dream for some, but not for murderer Tracie Andrews aka Tia Carter (Yorkshire Post, August 24).

Courtesy of the taxpayer?