A sorry business

SORRY to mention it, but this cult of apology seems to be getting out of hand.

Last week it was the Canadians apologising to their indigenous peoples. In preparation for the Millennium, the Catholic Church is seeking forgiveness from women for being male-oriented, and from Protestants for beastliness about the time of the Reformation. There is even talk of the Pope saying sorry for the Crusades.

Apart from often being a substitute for actual remedial action, such as monetary compensation, these apologies can diffuse individual responsibility somewhat: if we are all guilty, then no one in particular is to blame. It's also hard to know where to stop - the moment Tony Blair apologised for the Irish potato famine, demands rolled in for a whole catalogue of imperial offences to be taken into account.

I have often thought that it is impossible to go anywhere in the world without finding yourself being held responsible for some past British crime of which you know nothing and the locals nurse every detail. Surely in Venezuela I would be safe, I remember thinking - wrongly. "What about Drake?" demanded a Venezuelan. "He burned our ports, you know." I didn't.

Fowl pest

IF Karen Davis had her way, we'd all be apologising to chickens. She runs something called United Poultry Concerns, which stands up for fowls everywhere, and has attacked the film director John Waters for enlisting a chicken in a gay sex scene.

Waters dismissed her as someone obsessed, remarking, according to Esquire magazine: "I'm glad this woman doesn't have my home address, because she's the kind of person who will one day don a chicken outfit and be at my door with a chainsaw." Ms Davis is unlikely to give up, though. She has a sanctuary for injured chickens, and defended a farmer whose neighbours complained about his noisy rooster with these words: "In his own fascinating world of chickendom, the rooster is a lover, a father, a brother, a food- finder, a guardian and a sentinel." She was also arrested while engaging in an avian version of hunt sabotage, disrupting a pigeon shoot in Pennsylvania.

I wonder what Ms Davis is doing about the mass slaughter of chickens in Hong Kong, where they stand accused of giving us a new strain of flu. Or is that a historical libel for which we will one day have to make amends?

Pussy galore

OFFICIALS in northern Vietnam reckon they have the answer to a plague of rats: breed 24,000 cats. Despite offering peasants a few dong (the local currency, since you ask) for every dead rodent they produce, they still have 17 million of the pests.

The only problem with their latest plan is, they have to stop people eating the felines. Cat meat remains popular in Thai Binh province, even though it is illegal. "It's difficult for inspectors to distinguish cat and rabbit meat, so some restaurants still offer this special dish," said one local functionary. Sounds like an apology is called for ...