20 October 2016

2:00 PM

20 October 2016

2:00 PM

Russia’s war crimes

Sir: In his article ‘Vanity Bombing’ (15 October), Simon Jenkins quivers with contempt at MPs digging ‘deep into the jaded rhetoric of a superannuated great power’ and ‘shouting adjectives and banging drums’. But he does Parliament and decent, careful motivation a deep disservice. I don’t know what preceded his splenetic outburst, but Syrian analysis deserves better.

The position is very simple. The Russians are committing war crimes and using their position as a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council to shield themselves from international humanitarian law. They are not bombing formations of Assad’s military; they are hitting hospitals with bunker-busting bombs and attacking civilians cowering in cellars. They are using cluster and incendiary munitions.

The Germans and Italians did to the League of Nations in the 1930s precisely what Russia is now doing to its successor. We are in danger of seeing the same results for an international rules-based system. To say we will stand by our responsibility to protect innocent civilians from this barbarism is not jingoistic or superficial. It is the assertion of a doctrine the entire international community endorsed after Rwanda, Srebrenica and Bosnia, and promised to uphold. Perhaps Sir Simon concluded these were just the weasel words of a cynical international community and the foolish and third-rate politicians whom he believes populate the House of Commons.

On a previous occasion he wrote about deterrence resting ‘on the assurance of collective response’. On that occasion he was entirely correct.
The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP
Royal Sutton Coldfield

Summer Time blues

Sir: I am glad that there is someone else in the country who feels as strongly as I do about the absurd timing of the reversion to British Summer Time in spring (Wiki Man, 8 October).

But if it is sensible not to change the clocks to Greenwich Mean Time until the first Sunday in November, when sunrise in London is around 7 a.m. (GMT), as Rory Sutherland suggests, it is surely logical to change them back when sunrise is once again around 7 a.m.: about 20 February, not the second Sunday in March, as Rory proposes.
Trevor Woolley
Englefield Green, Surrey

Cows and antibiotics

Sir: I very rarely take any issue at all with Rory Sutherland — he seems to be bursting with great ideas, has a healthy suspicion of horses and his is my Spectator ‘go-to’ page. However, I do believe that he was being harsh and judgmental to say that ‘farmers would need to rise long before daybreak’ (they do anyway, Rory) ‘to perform their vital work of stuffing antibiotics into the front of cows and pulling milk out of the back’ (8 October).

No dairy farmer uses antibiotics routinely. The only time that antibiotics are used in a precautionary way is when cows are ‘dried off’, which means at the end of their lactation. The use of mild antibiotics via intra-mammary tubing prevents mastitis building up. This, complete hygiene in the parlour and a perfectly working milking machine have combined to greatly reduce mastitis in what little is left of the British herd. I know of no antibiotics being ‘stuffed in the front’. If milk contains even a very low level of antibiotics, it is rejected without compensation.
Tom Thatcher
Salisbury, Wiltshire

It’s not about the schools

Sir: While I am delighted that Simon Jenkins sees our cathedrals as success stories (‘Why cathedrals are soaring’, 8 October), can I point out that the vast majority of children the Church of England educate were not admitted on the basis of whether their parents attended church?

Our schools serve pupils of all faiths and none, and over half have no faith-based criteria. There will be some who choose to attend church merely to tick a box. They are a tiny minority and we hope that in doing so they find a richer purpose. Our cathedrals and churches are salt and light to the world, giving flavour and illumination.

As our 11,000 parishes gear up to welcome around 2.5 million to church this Christmas, the pews will fill with people looking for joy in their world— not simply because they want a form filled.
The Revd Nigel Genders
Church of England Education Office
London SW1

Straw’s polls

Sir: Brendan O’Neill’s article on the NUS (‘The students fight back’, 8 October) reminded me so much of my time some 45 years ago, when a certain Jack Straw was president. All of our NUS meetings were held in the lunch break, and by 1.50 p.m. all of us from the science and engineering faculties had to leave for 2 p.m. lectures. The other faculties never seemed to have 2 p.m. lectures, and as all votes took place after 2 p.m., we never got to even register our opposition to wacko resolutions.
Keith Appleyard
West Wickham, Kent

A wee beastie

Sir: Alistair Kerr believes that the beech marten, not the pine marten, is to blame for the smell in the attic of Mr Wallis’s house in France (Letters, 16 October). My father had a similar problem with a marten in the roof, which eventually came to a head when one peed on him as he read the paper. This was in the Scottish Highlands and, as Mr Kerr rightly points out, the beech marten has never lived in the British Isles. So for this misdemeanour at least, the beech marten surely can’t be blamed.
Camilla Swift
Windsor, Berkshire

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