Week’s Gleanings

It was good to hear this morning’s news that a number of Muslim leaders in Pakistan have called for the release of Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl with learning difficulties, accused of blasphemy, but sad to read that a Moslem religious leader has been arrested for endeavouring to get her wrongly convicted. What a comfort to know there were such people as Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer, a Salafi Muslim leader, magazine editor and head of an Islamic fundamentalist political party which has representation in parliament, who said: “If she is found to be a minor, she has to be released, and if the allegations are false, the guilty must be punished. No one has the right to take justice into their own hands. The blasphemy law needs procedural amendments to prevent abuse.” It’s sad to think that religion can be as much a comfort as a curse under certain circumstances; I wish the religious fundamentalist-bigots of all faiths and denominations would just look after their own patch without infringing the allotted space of others of different persuasions.

I had a little smile when I read that HMQEII had decided to wear bright red earplugs for the opening of the Paralympic Games, having worn yellow ones for the other event. Reminded me when I went with a group of students from a language school in Brighton to a performance of Evita; my first visit to a London theatre since my student days, decades before; I was not prepared for the loudspeakers emitting sounds that both deafened, and gave me excruciating earache; so much so, I had to leave the auditorium, and arrange to meet up again with my students after it had finished. I’ve not visited a London theatre since; nor will do, having been told it is now common practice to see those on stage wearing earpieces with microphones…macabre! Might do for Dr Who, but not for me; I’ll keep my memories of actors who could speak their lines; sing their songs; act their parts, and deliver marvellous performances without resorting to such off-putting paraphernalia.

It has been noticeable during my fourteen years in this particular countryside, that those who are supposed to husband the land are also responsible for the greatest depredation and degradation with their giant pieces of machinery and methods of factory farming on an ever-increasing scale. The run-off from the fields is evidenced by the amounts of mud in the water that ultimately silts up the drains; streams; rivers, and the Towy estuary itself. Multiply the situation many times throughout the country, and we get an idea of the battle being fought by the environment; and that without the effect of the methane clouds; and oceans of slurry generated by giant herds of cattle that end up being sprayed on the fields used to grow the silage for feeding the animals; then badgers are blamed for spreading tuberculosis.

The blame-the-badger society of farmers who crave the culling of these creatures might do well to take samples from their own land, and test it for hidden content. When I have to stop to let a herd of cows pass, my heart sinks at the state of the road I must then drive over, and the state of the cows whose legs and flanks are well-coated in their own, and their fellow-herd members’ excrement.

I can’t help wondering, given the natural affinity between excrement and disease, and the history behind the medical experts who did so much to draw attention to such matters, if there is some link between this story of bovine tuberculosis and simple mismanagement through sheer pressure of numbers. I can’t believe it’s healthy to keep cows in barns for at least six of the winter months every year, where they breathe, urinate and defecate over each other while ruminating and turning silage into milk.

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