Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On killing badgers and boycotting milk suppliers

Click here for the Stop the Cull campaign
The badger cull has begun. I've emailed Dairy Crest, who deliver my milk, to tell them I'm closing my account, and why. I got this reply from Colin Walters, Dairy Crest's Consumer Care Advisor:
Dear Margaret

Many thanks for getting in touch and sharing your concerns regarding the issue of Bovine TB. We appreciate this is an extremely difficult issue, involving animal welfare issues on both sides of the debate and I wanted to give you some background information which I hope you will find useful.

Bovine TB is one of the most serious problems facing the dairy sector, having a negative impact on the health and welfare of both wild and farm animals, and it is important that we work towards its eradication.

Bovine TB has inflicted severe damage on the financial and emotional well being of many British dairy farmers and it is on the rise, with 38, 000 cattle compulsorily slaughtered as reactors or direct contacts in 2012, a 10 per cent increase compared to 2011. This has already cost UK farmers £90 million and it is estimated that it will cost taxpayers £1 billion over the next ten years if we do not take action.

The Government has been through due process, including a judicial review, and has concluded to go ahead with a limited cull. As the UK’s leading dairy company, processing around 15 per cent of British milk production, Dairy Crest may well source milk from farms in the pilot area for the trial. However, we want to help our farmers to ensure the long-term sustainability of a British dairy industry and to do this we need to tackle bTB head on. We therefore support the science-based controlled approach proposed by the Government. It is up to each individual farmer if they participate but we are committed to supporting all of our farmers through this challenging time.

Thank you in advance for your understanding.

Kind Regards, etc.
I've replied:
Thank you for your speedy reply. I've heard all the arguments in favour of a cull (I wrote to your CEO last year), and I sympathise with the dairy farmers, but I have very strong reservations about how "humane" the cull will be and I'm unconvinced that it will benefit the dairy industry in the long term. I find the arguments in favour of a cull less convincing than those presented by Team Badger. Lord Krebs has said, “The scientific case is as clear as it can be: this cull is not the answer to TB in cattle. I have not found any scientists who are experts in population biology or the distribution of infectious disease in wildlife who think that culling is a good idea. People seem to have cherry-picked certain results to try and get the argument they want.”

I'm regretfully cancelling my doorstep deliveries from Milk and More unless and until the cull is cancelled, or until Dairy Crest changes its support for a badger cull.
Incidentally, I signed my initial email with my full name, and regard it as over-familiar to be addressed by my forename.

It won't be easy, doing without doorstep deliveries, as I don't drive and the village stores only sell milk from the same supplier. The nearest source of locally-produced milk is 4 miles away. I'm going to have to make some room in the freezer.

I wonder if Chris Packham's TV series on burrowers might help raise support for the anti-cull campaign? It hasn't been mentioned in the programmes, but the timing must have helped.

Monday, August 26, 2013

On imposing "secularism": headscarves and hijabs

Al Jazeera asks, "What’s behind the fixation on women who wear Muslim headscarves?" Good question. They say,
While some claim governments have the right to uphold secularism by outlawing religious symbols and apparel in public spaces, critics believe these restrictions are mainly targeting Muslims and a result of growing anti-immigrant sentiment.
I've never believed that it makes any sense to prohibit the wearing of religious symbols in public, under the pretext of "upholding secularism", apart from a requirement to be able to see someone's face in places where security is a consideration. If full-face motorcycle helmets aren't allowed, neither should the niqāb or burqa, in places like banks. What is the difference between, say, an English countrywoman wearing a headscarf (though they're less fashionable than they were) and a Muslim woman wearing a hijab? An alien from another planet would fail to see any.

A secular state is one where religion and the state are separate. The NSS explains,
Secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law.
There have been a few cases of aggrieved religionists claiming discrimination, for example over disputed work or school uniforms. If they've lost their legal actions, it's been because there have been valid reasons why they should have expected to adhere to a dress code. But walking down the street in a hijab threatens no one, any more than any other form of dress might threaten you - unless you happen to be carrying a machine gun while wearing military fatigues. I used to live in Oxford, where many of its residents liked to wear eccentric outfits, including the man whose pet rat adorned his wide-brimmed hat. Academic gowns, as worn on graduation day, might appear eccentric to someone from another culture.

You cannot assume that a woman in a hijab is being forced to wear it by a domineering husband, and even if she is, banning it won't make her situation any better. At a sixth-form conference on faith issues, I shared a platform with a Muslim woman in a hijab, while another Muslim woman, who chose not to wear one, facilitated the discussion. The students, mainly from a rural Suffolk area where they normally don't meet any Muslims, were keen to know why the hijab-wearer had made her choice. Both women were British-born. Essentially, it was about how they interpreted Islam and its teaching on "modesty". The hijab-wearer regarded hers as a statement, which was partially an expression of her identity, while the non-hijab-wearer didn't feel the need for any such form of self-expression, though she felt that her faith was just as important to her. There are many ignorant Islamophobes here in the UK and elsewhere who know very little about Islam, but tend to regard all Muslims as one homogenous mass. In their minds, Muslim women are all subjected to misogynist male domination, and by making Muslim dress illegal, they'd be free of all that. Utter nonsense. As for Muslim passivity; try telling Yasmin Alibhai-Brown how she's expected to behave. She's an opinionated, independent Muslim woman, and she's not that unusual. The difference between her and the anonymous, powerless women in burqas that you see in newsreel films from Islamic states is cultural and political.

In Sweden, non-Muslims have been wearing the hijab to express their feelings about the assault of a pregnant Muslim woman in a hijab, the subject of the story above. It's believed to be a faith-based hate crime. This has nothing to do with secularism, but if anyone thinks it is, they don't understand what secularism means.

Monday, August 05, 2013

On unhappy morons

See the happy Moron,
He doesn't give a damn.
I wish I were a Moron,
My God!, perhaps I am.
This popped into my head while thinking about Twitter misogyny, again. The misogynist morons don't seem happy to me. If you can get past being disgusted by them, you might feel sorry for them, the poor, sad fools.