An invitation from Oxford

Dr Whipsnade’s studious nephew has invited me to speak at the Oxford Union. At his suggestion, the committee have agreed to a debate on the following motion:

This house believes that apes have human rights

He wants me to propose the motion and has found a zoologist called Professor Fitzgibbon to second it – I believe he is human in spite of his name. Much as I hate to disappoint the extended family of my benefactor, I will have to decline. For one thing, I’m not actually sure I agree with the proposition. Apes do indeed have rights, but not necessarily human ones. Our value system has a number of important differences with that of our upright cousins. Where in the Rights of Man would you find anything about thrashing cheeky baboons or debagging nosey wildlife photographers? There are many rights in common, of course, but I don’t see why we should have to level down.

The other problem with these contests is that they are rarely decided by force of argument. Back in my circus days, I agreed to participate in a debate weighing the merits of the following highly dubious proposition:

The promiscuous man is a gorilla shaved of hair

Naturally I argued against the motion, which is pretty disparaging to gorillas when you consider it. I don’t know why humans have to bring us into their petty squabbles. If you must insult each other, point out your faults rather than making bogus comparisons with your primate cousins. These gratuitous references are deeply resented in the jungle.

Arguing in favour of the motion was an irritable young lady who obviously wasn’t keen on promiscuous men. She mentioned an occasion when a lecherous co-worker had indecently propositioned her after she had unwisely agreed to share a taxi with him.

“When we stopped outside my flat he put his hand on my knee and asked me how I liked my eggs!” she huffed in righteous indignation.

“You should have said 'unfertilised'!” I declared.

The women in the audience booed and hissed me, thinking that I’d made light of a serious incident. Yet had she uttered that one-word riposte in the voice of a petulant Joan Collins, the frisky fellow bothering her would have surely been thoroughly de-frisked. I should imagine the lead in his pencil would have gone from 4H to 3B in the blink of an eye. Such nuances, however, were lost on these angry females. All my subsequent attempts to mollify them proved futile, even though what happened in the taxi cab bore no resemblance whatever to the conduct of male gorillas. As far as they were concerned, I was a big hairy sexist ape.

It is possible, of course, that the students of Oxford University would give me a fairer hearing. Many of the females in the audience would be recently deflowered virgins, with the dreamy, slightly embarrassed eyes that distinguish such damsels. That ought to make them more receptive to my apish repartee. But any such enticement would be nullified by the inevitable presence of their smug, conceited boyfriends. Gorilla Bananas will not take his case to that overrated arena.

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