Sometimes a news story brings out both the best and worst in Kiwis, and the sad news of the death of Paddles did just that, with kind words from many and an epic and ill-timed rant from Gareth “I Hate Cats” Morgan.
As a pet-owner/slave, my heart goes out to our PM Jacinda Ardern on the loss of her wee furry friend Paddles, who died after being hit by a car. I had a scary moment less than a fortnight ago where I faced the possibility of losing my own wee ginger ninja when Seymour the Wonder Cat had a rather costly vet experience, so as the old saying goes: there but for the grace of God … and all that. But holy crap, there are a couple of things about the story (that apparently warranted a news alert from Newshub and was the lead on Stuff, no less) that really pissed me off.
First of all, I wish the media would stop telling us that Paddles had opposable thumbs. She didn’t have opposable thumbs, no cat does. Sure, she was cute, fluffy, adept at typing (she had her own Twitter account) and a great advertisement for the SPCA. But if a cat suddenly turned up with opposable thumbs, we’d probably have a gaggle of scientists having a total meltdown over having to rewrite the textbooks. Cats don’t even have thumbs, let alone the opposable variety.
However, they can be polydactyl, which is what Paddles was. That means she have a few extra toes on her paws, which sat at the side, slightly separate from her other toes. They stuck out a little more, almost looking like a small thumb, but clearly weren’t opposable, nor were they actually thumbs.
I’m peeved that that little item of misreporting because unfortunately, even though the PM probably initially said Paddles had opposable thumbs as a wee bit of a light-hearted comment when introducing her little moggy to the world, there are plenty of muppets out there who will believe that as a fact and suddenly we’ll have a generation believing that somehow cats evolved to have thumbs. And opposable ones at that. The Andrew Wakefield debacle is proof of just how dangerous the reporting of bullshit is.
And that other thing that got my blood boiling on reading about Paddles: Gareth fecking Morgan. What the fuck is wrong with that man? Did he have a bad experience with a cat as a child, or is he just terminally self-absorbed and insensitive?
No sooner had news of the passing of Paddles been reported, and he was spouting off about it all on Twitter: he started by accusing Ardern of having a “callous disregard” for New Zealand’s native wildlife, before asking the PM if Paddles had been out wandering when she was run over, saying “if so does this reflect the value the PM puts on NZ wildlife?”
There seems to be a bit of a trend for pussy-obsessed rich old men to try to muscle their way into politics. Luckily for us, our particular self-confessed pussy-hater failed in his bid, unlike the tangerine-hued self-confessed pussy-grabber on the other side of the world.
Every time Morgan opens his mouth – or flexes his fingers on Twitter (much like that aforementioned orange dude in the States) – I lose a little more respect for him. His petulant behaviour on election night, having a verbal tanty at the voters of New Zealand for not backing him and his divisive policies, pretty much wiped out the last scrap of respect, and this little tirade over the demise of poor Paddles has shown he is capable of plummeting to new depths.
His beliefs about the benefits of wiping out cats aren’t even backed up by all experts in the conservation field, many of whom say that cats play a role in keeping down the numbers of predators that target some of our native birds.
Sure, some cats are hunters, but so are humans, so his claim that cats are the only critters to kill for fun isn’t true: humans are the most damaging creature on this planet, and humans hunt for “sport”.
I can get behind a plan to eradicate feral cats and strays, but not pets. Sure, it is believed that cats have been responsible for the extinction of several bird breeds around the world, but that most likely been down to feral cats.
I have one cat who is a hunter, one who isn’t. Norman catches starlings and blackbirds (neither of which is native nor endangered … in fact they breed like bunnies from all accounts). She eats most of them and leaves the feet as a wee trophy for me in my wardrobe. Noice.
Oh, and I get that there’s a decent amount of interest in the loss of Paddles, so fully understand the various news outlets giving it a good run. But it was sitting above a story about the death of a mother and daughter in Auckland and while I’m a cat-lover, I do think the death of two humans is probably a little more newsworthy.
And let’s be honest, I reckon Stuff gave more coverage to the death of Ardern’s cat Paddles than when her grandmother died during the election campaign!