issue 218 - April 1991
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I was sad that your issue on biotechnology (Test tube coup NI 217) said so little about the positive achievements of this new science. Of course there are risks, but let us not throw the baby out with the bath water. Any technology which can potentially cure AIDS has to be grasped with both hands. Of course we must monitor biotech. But let us keep our eyes open to its positive potential too.
Chris Brazier suggests in his editorial (Journey to the heart of Vietnam NI 216) that issues focussing on a single country are less popular than theme issues. Well, if so, this magazine must be an exception for I found it fascinating in the extreme. In particular, I was reminded of my experiences in Northern Italy just after the war when Italy was ‘down and out’ with massive unemployment and extreme shortages of everything. The rank-and-file ex-partisans and their Communist leadership were optimistic about the future but the attitude of most non-political Italians was that there was no hope for Italy and the only way out was for Italians to get to the US.
Just one criticism of your excellent issue on Vietnam (NI 216). When mention is made of Cambodia, the impression is given that Vietnam invaded Cambodia. But the truth is that Vietnam was itself invaded by the forces of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians who had fled to escape the reign of terror. These acts of aggression were ignored by the UN, and on Christmas Day 1978, Vietnamese and Cambodian forces went into Cambodia to defend themselves.
It was during this act of liberation that the full horrors of Pol Pot's rule were brought to the attention of the world. The danger of the return of Pol Pot and his forces is one that our association has and is still campaigning against.
Secretary of the Britian / Vietnam Association
The red meat I eat is almost always kangaroo (Animal Rights NI 215). It is lower in fat and cholesterol than beef. And where I live it is marketed under strict controls. ‘How can you eat your national symbol?’ some of your readers may ask. And the answer is that we cull kangaroos in Australia because our huge human population has taken so much of the kangaroos’ habitat to graze sheep and cattle. Farmers see ‘roos as pests to their crops and thieves of their pastures. Of course I am concerned that the hard hooves of the new grazers may damage our fragile Australian soils. But I support kangaroo farming and consumption, provided the culling is controlled and the killing humane.
Save the fly
Your animal rights issue (NI 215) was incomplete. When will you speak out against the global genocide being conducted against such ‘fellow travellers’ in the world as the tse-tse fly, the syphilis microbe and the smallpox virus? Or do you prefer to campaign for the rights of cute puppies, piglets and calves? Seriously, I was angered by your decision to devote pages to such trivia. It speaks volumes about your bourgeois, sentimentalist staff that this garbage is given the same attention as real issues like global warming and third world debt.
As a farmer, I have to admit that though highly emotional, the articles in your animal rights issue (NI 215) were factually accurate. However just because some farm animals are badly treated, it does not mean that all are. I work on a fully organic farm which is situated on steep and mostly poor land and which depends on our pig unit for survival. We are able to farm the pigs intensively and keep them to high welfare standards by selling them at a higher price than usual in our own farm shop.
I am moved to write following receipt of your issue about animal rights (NI 215). The opening ‘shamelessly anthropomorphic’ article must rank as one of the stupidest things I have ever read. It is maudlin, patronizing, cretinous and ever-so-pointless. An ant by the way is an invertebrate with a chitinous exoskeleton. Even if it had the emotional capacity to smile, its face (unlike my own) is too stiff.
Some of your writers in the animals rights issue (NI 215) rely on the unfounded assumption that there is ‘no morally relevant difference between ourselves and other animals’. It is the reverse side of the same argument which Nazis used to justify experiments on humans. If there is no difference then let us exploit our fellow humans as we exploit animals. After all the animal world is cruel and bloody.
Interesting and brave talk by Mari Marcel (Letter from Tamil Nadu NI 215). But how convenient for us Indians to put all the blame on the US for Pakistan’s nuclear troubles. I sincerely wish that Ms Marcel had made an honest effort to address Indians’ own (home-made with a little stealing) nuclear industry and its conspiracy of silence, misuse, abuse and profiting, all done in the name of national security and ‘Peaceful Nuclear Research and Use’. It’s time there was more campaigning in India by Indians for Indians, and less concern about what Europe and the US have got to say.
The World Bank issue (Pinstripes and poverty NI 214) leaves several vital issues unresolved. You do not explain the overall increase in national revenues in countries where the bank has been operating. And you fail to consider that individual Sri Lankans derive benefits from climate, religion, culture and lifestyle that North Americans have to pay for.
NI holds a naively optimistic view about the superior morality of the Third World. What makes you think that people with non-white skins are any less greedy, selfish and cruel than we? And why do you crudely label all employees of the World Bank as caught up in their own careers and selfish drives? Collective insularity seems to prejudice your mandate as investigative reporters. Get a larger picture of the world, not a comic hero slant.
Stephen van Beek
The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist