Letters, February 20, 2014

In the firing line over foie gras

SIR – Gerald Stone (Herts Advertiser, February 6) says he wants to have choice in what and where he eats. That is precisely the point. The poor geese have no choice but are force fed, which is torture. I’m sure Mr Stone would not like it. I am pleased to note that many if not most supermarkets now stock free range eggs, as awareness of the need for humane treatment has spread. Torture just for the sake of taste, is abhorrent. I am amazed it isn’t banned.

MAVIS EGGLE Cowper Road, Harpenden

SIR – Mahatma Gandhi, said, among other things, that “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. I do not recall how he said a nation should judge people like Gerald Stone. Incidentally, Katherine Rudd is not alone in opposing the consumption of foie gras, as Sir Roger Moore has also campaigned against the unconscionable cruelty its production entails. Perhaps Mr Stone considers Sir Roger to be a zealot too?

SIMON LEADBEATER Crabtree Lane, Harpenden

SIR – Gerald Stone’s letter regarding the serving of foie gras in restaurants totally misses the point that Katherine Rudd was making. This is not an issue of ‘good taste’ but one of whether it is morally defensible for some humans to indulge their whim for such an alleged delicacy when it is produced in such a cruel and inhumane manner. Katherine Rudd is, I believe, to be applauded for airing this matter and giving a vote to the animals involved who cannot speak for themselves. If we could all aspire to similar ethical standards, the world would be a better place.

ROD WOODWARD Lancaster Road, St Albans

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SIR – Gerald Stone has got it wrong. It’s not Katherine Rudd who is making it more difficult for him to indulge in supposed fine dining experiences without the inconvenience of having to consider cruelty to animals. It is actually the restaurant owners who, once the full, objective and unambiguous facts have been made clear to them (by in this instance Ms Rudd), are then making the enlightened choice to stop serving foie gras, a product that relies on the grotesque and sickening practice of force-feeding ducks and geese to artificially enlarge their livers. So all Mr Stone has to do is find a restaurateur who is equally lacking in any sense of decency, compassion and conscience in this context, and bingo – problem solved. In fact it sounds very sensible that Ms Rudd is concentrating on restaurant owners with whom she can discuss the issue constructively – the alternative approach (trying to engage with the buying public) would clearly in some cases be a complete waste of effort.

JEREMY PLATT Park Street, St Albans

Fears of future flooding

SIR – The recent nationwide floods have clearly shown the need not only for national and effective flood management strategies, but also for local common sense when considering future development upon water-sensitive areas. Here in my boggy part of Harpenden where we plebs and benefit scroungers eke out a pathetic existence without basic amenities like: doctors’ surgeries, dentists, post offices, coffee shops and chemists – things taken for granted by our more affluent brethren – we too have experienced flooding. The River Lea has burst its banks in several areas. One is a mere hop, skip and jump away from the Lea Industrial Estate, where a developer is planning yet another much unneeded Tesco School of Architecture batch of flats and offices. The EA has clearly designated the area as at high risk of flooding (they’re not wrong!). I have objected to the development upon precisely these grounds. Apparently ‘mitigation strategies’’ will be put in, if permission is granted. As far as I can tell, this means that at some point, a developer returns to a council and says that said strategies will shave so much off their profits that they cannot afford to build any ‘’affordable’’ housing. As this town council appear to be in thrall not only to their own arrogance, but to any large developer, they will no doubt roll over and say “fine”, should that happen. The ex-allotment site at Westfield has been soaking up the rain like nobody’s business, so although the road behind my house suffered rudimentary flooding, it was nothing like as bad as it might be should this area fall prey to a developer also, as Harpenden Town Council has planned. We look forward to future winters of sandbags and misery. The climate may change, the mindset of the current council does not.

CAROL HEDGES Harpenden Independent Partnership Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden SIR – The article by D B Campbell (February 13) was interesting - we have always wondered about the origin of the large “ditch” on the A1081 at the Thrales End junction area. Now we also know why the A1081 in our area resembles a river at times – it was one! We live in the Woodend area of Harpenden, where perhaps four metres or so of clay overlies the chalk beneath. In the late 1980s, following some surface water run off issues, originating from poorly drained farmland, we managed to get St Albans Council (SADC) to investigate. It transpired that the surface water gulley grids in our area are connected to deep (15-plus metre) boreholes into the chalk. These boreholes were then re-drilled by SADC to remove silt and debris, and matters improved. However given that this was back in the late 80s, I suspect that we once again require a “re-drill”. This issue also leads onto the general infrastructure topic. Yet more housing development and “densification” leads to more paved areas, where water is not as readily absorbed, and which therefore potentially raises the risk of flash flooding. I would like to think that SADC and Herts County Council have the budget, and are being diligent and pro-active with regard to water management and maintaining surface water drainage – but if the state of our roads are anything to go by, I’m not very confident.


Tuffnells Way, Harpenden

Call for clear heads over GM trials

SIR – I don’t share the concerns of Helena Paul of GM Freeze about new toxins that might possibly be introduced in GM trials like that at Rothamsted and I should like to make some comments on plant toxins and risk. Plants are pretty good at producing toxic chemicals without the help of GM trials. They don’t like being chewed by insects any more than we do so they produce insecticides. These do not taste nice so there has been a lot of effort by conventional plant breeders to eliminate them. Believe it or not, 99.99 per cent of all known pesticides are produced by plants rather than chemical manufacturers. Most of us eat coleslaw quite happily, but some might be less enthusiastic if told that cabbage contains 49 natural pesticides, some of which cannot be used by farmers because they can cause cancer in laboratory rats. And coffee is particularly rich in rodent carcinogens. I eat cabbage and drink coffee and I bet you do too, you naughty risk taker. Yes, some technologies carry an element of risk. But with all risks, you need to consider not only the risk but the ‘reciprocal risk’. That means we need to compare the risk of doing something with the risk of not doing it. If this procedure had been followed in the MMR-autism scare we would not have had the subsequent measles epidemic. Thinking in terms of reciprocal risk suggests that we need to compare the risk that the trial will release a new toxin with the reciprocal risk of a widespread shortage of fish oils. I have no idea where the balance lies, but for Heaven’s sake let’s try and sort it out logically. We don’t want a situation akin to motor cars needing to be preceded by a man with a red flag.

TOM ADDISCOTT Gilpin Green, Harpenden No development of Green Belt wanted

SIR – It’s the thin end of the wedge for people to suggest that, in default of Helioslough’s unwelcome SRFI application, the former Radlett Airfield could be used for other development. The site is within the Green Belt and any “solutions” of the type recently speculated on in the Herts Advertiser would need to demonstrate very special circumstances before consent could be granted: do these qualify? – football stadium – NO, floodlights – NO, parking – NO, housing – NO! To be more positive and in our view, the best and only sensible future for the site, located in the northern part of the Watling Chase Community Forest, would be as an area for recreation and leisure, landscaped by the owners, Herts County Council perhaps in association with the Woodland Trust. As things stand, only in this way can the openness and permanence of the Green Belt between Radlett and St Albans be safeguarded for generations to come. We do not believe that the supposed benefits of the SRFI will outweigh the any of the actual visual, traffic and transport harm that would be caused to the surrounding areas. This is echoed by the continued and general lack of support from local residents, councils and MPs. Let’s hope Eric Pickles comes to the same view… and announces it soon, and before the General Election!

GRAHAM TAYLOR Chairman, Radlett Society & Green Belt Association

Over-reaction about Station Approach

SIR – I haven’t written in for some months but I was moved to write after reading Victor Lowry’s letter on Station Approach in Harpenden. 1) Mr Lowry – You claim it is the “most disgusting station approach road in the UK”; given the enormity of this claim can you confirm how many other station approaches you have visited as part of your investigation? It would imply you have visited many. 2) You claim it looks “more like a Fourth World country than it does Hertfordshire”. My geography is poor but I have to admit I cannot name a single Fourth World country and so can you confirm which country you would compare Station Approach in Harpenden to? 3) You mentioned that you asked the taxi rank about the rubbish – why don’t they clear up the rubbish round their businesses as any other self respecting retail business would? Why is it FCC’s responsibility when the taxi rank and indeed all those businesses could take individual responsibility? 4) You asked what we as town residents could do? Why don’t you form an action group and go down to Station Approach mob-handed with brooms and Marigolds in hand? I suspect FCC have slightly more pressing matters on their hands such as the recent bad weather causing major problems and the on-going theft of steel cabling when compared to a minor litter problem on Station Approach in Harpenden. If the action group idea doesn’t grab you, you may want to consider taking up a hobby as I find this fills the days up.

ANDREW AMBROSE Cornwall Road, Harpenden

Bus problems after rail chaos

SIR – Just wanted to follow up on your reader’s letter a couple of weeks back saying how well First Capital Connect had done to provide a bus service when the overhead cables went down at Hendon last month. My experience was more mixed. I don’t know whether FCC were to blame or Arriva, but the website said train tickets would be accepted on buses. I used a different rail service, to Watford, and tried to board an Arriva bus to St Albans, but the driver said he could not accept it. I waited for a Uno bus and was allowed to use my rail ticket. Not sure whether the driver was just being kind or whether he had been told to accept it but you would think FCC would arrange with all bus companies. I e-mailed them before writing to you, but not having heard back, I now wonder whether they will respond to this open letter.

S BEAVER London Road, St Albans Grateful thanks

SIR – I would like via your letters pages to thank the three ladies who came to my aid on Tuesday, January 28, when I twisted my ankle and fell in the Quadrant car park in Marshalswick. They picked me up and dusted me down, made sure I was okay to carry on and even posted a letter for me. Thank you again ladies.


SIR – The Salvation Army in St Albans would like to thank everyone who has supported our work both financially and by the provision of toys for needy children during the Christmas period. This has enabled us to help needy people over the Christmas season either by the provision of food parcels of Christmas presents. Your support will also help us in our ongoing ministry to the community throughout the coming year. We pray that you will all know God’s continued blessing in 2014. Many thanks once more.


Mutual courtesy on the Alban Way

SIR – In response to the letter from Joanna Tatlock, who reported being shouted at on two occasions by people cycling on the Alban Way, the St Albans Cycle Campaign (STACC) is happy to confirm that the Alban Way is for cycling and walking. The route is not wide enough to be segregated with white lines. The STACC leaflet on Shared Space Cycling can be downloaded from our website, stacc.org.uk A bell on your bike is useful if you do a lot of cycling on shared paths. Many walkers tell us they wish more cyclists used bells. We asked for advice on the best distance at which to ring the bell, they replied “as far away as you like”. This is easy advice to apply! As soon as you sight someone ahead – a walker, a slower cyclist – ring the bell, and ring it at intervals until an acknowledgement is given. Yes, the courtesies work both ways. If someone has pinged their bell to warn you of their approach, it is helpful if you show that you have heard them. Not everyone has a bell, for whatever reason, but a friendly call such as “coo-ee cyclist approaching” or “ting-a-ling-a-ling” or even “what lovely weather” (we can hope!) serves just as well. STACC recommends slow down, and single out if in a group, when meeting other path users, even if the path is very wide. Skilled cyclists do this no bother, and well-practised rambler groups likewise. Perhaps the old fart who shouted at the Tatlock children to stay to one side misjudged their awareness and capability at the last minute – you would shout too if you thought a collision was imminent. It was sensible advice, if brusquely delivered: a scattered group is always a concern, particularly if there are dogs or children involved. Just as you would do if walking on the road, it is good practice for a walking party to all move to the same side, conventionally the right hand side. STACC is also able to advise on dealing with litter reported by Ms Tatlock. Many of our members have the council’s ‘Cleaner District Hotline’ details to hand and do their bit to keep our district attractive by reporting fly-tipped waste. The number to call is 01727 819598, or you can email to a.cleanerdistrict@stalbans.gov.uk. There is also an online reporting form accessed from stalbans.gov.uk/environmentandwaste/street-care-and-cleaning.

RONA WIGHTMAN For St Albans Cycle Campaign