Firstly, Garth, let me say that I'm glad that you've come to the realisation that, say, homosexuality and vegetarianism exist; although, as a vegetarian, or something approaching one - mmm, scallops - I'm slightly vexed to see myself mentioned in the same context as a paedophile.
There are three things I acknowledge, and accept that they exist, but which I have never been able, for the life of me, to get my head around. They have always remained far beyond my understanding, no matter how much I ponder them or how old I get.
The first is child abuse, paedophilia and cruelty to domestic animals; the second is male homosexuality; and the third is vegetarianism.
I have written often about child abuse and paedophilia, have touched on male homosexuality but find it expedient these days simply to ignore such an infinitesimal minority, and every time I encounter a vegan or vegetarian (I'm told there's a difference) I simply shake my head in wonder.Let's give him some credit. He has managed to distinguish between paedophiles and homosexuals, which is more than we might have expected. I like his explanation for not "touching" more often on male homosexuality, homosexuals being a far more "infinitesimal minority" than pedophiles. I suspect that the lack of writing on homosexuals has less to do with their minority status and more to do with the fact that the editor sat him down and told him that it was the twenty-first century, and he wasn't allowed to do it anymore because advertisers would complain. As for the vegan/vegetarian distinction, that's just the sort of quality, Google-led research I've come to expect from Garth.
As someone pointed out to me, the combination of an allegedly strong disgust toward animal cruelty and a complete dismissal of vegetarianism might be considered paradoxical, or worse - albeit not uncommon. In fairness, however, he does specify that he opposes "cruelty to domestic animals", neatly resolving the paradox and leaving him free to punch cows and kick chickens to his heart's content.
I love how again he has gone to the trouble of specifying "domestic" animals. Meanwhile, torturing defenceless farm animals - or, I don't know, circus animals - inflicting on them fathomless fear and excruciating agony, is fine, as it leads eventually to pies.
That leaves cruelty to domestic animals, examples of which laid before us in the media from time to time, are enough to turn my stomach.[...] The cruelties which sicken me are those perpetrated, invariably by males, which torture defenceless domestic animals, inflicting on them fathomless fear and excruciating agony.
Other than that, he's right, of course: I can't comprehend domestic animal cruelty either. It seems to me that it's almost completely a mental health issue, and that locking someone up in prison for five years isn't exactly the best way to solve the problem, although it does seem like that's the 'Kiwi way' these days. But I digress.
Garth talks about this for a while, before taking an... interesting diversion:
I can no more understand why anyone would torture and slaughter a Jack Russell terrier that I can understand anyone doing so to a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, an exceptional example of which has been part of our family for the past five years.Okay... what?
Well that was weird... but then I suppose we've all talked to an elderly relative and had the same experience of conversation suddenly veering off course. Then again, most senile old folk don't have columns in the country's leading daily newspaper, a column which has swung from righteous rage at animal abuse to advice on getting a dog.
Almost all my life there has been a cat in the house. I have always liked cats. They are independent creatures, content to look after themselves and as long as you feed them they will do their own thing.
The incumbent, a chocolate and cream long-haired Birman, has been with us for nearly 12 years. She is beginning to show her age but remains mistress of the household, particularly where the dog is concerned.
Archie - for, being of royal Scottish descent, that is his name - learned early not to mess with Madam - and a right little madam she was, too - and only later discovered she liked to tear round the house playing hide and seek, but only ever on her terms.
For years I resisted my wife's entreaties to get a dog, fearing the physical and emotional commitment it would entail. But I gave in and all I can say after five years is that the experience has been hugely enriching.
How marvellous it is to have pets in the house, little creatures which never talk back or argue with you and which are enormously loyal, trusting, guileless and affectionate.
Next week: vegetarian paedophiles.