Last winter we bought a TV – not just any TV, but a huge, flat-screen that’s so thin it doesn’t even cast a shadow. If it were a woman, it would have to wear a peplum dress to create the illusion of curves.

I learnt that from How Do I Look? I tried the peplum. How did I look? Like an obese Eighties dressing table with an unfortunate mustard frill.

We made rules when we got the TV: no dancing contests, no reality shows about liposuction, no Nigerian soap operas, no fake gypsies, no nature programmes about lions eating buck, no small people dressed as prostitutes, no movies featuring talking dogs and no post-2002 Nicolas Cage.

There’s a charming old adage, often found badly photocopied and stuck on the walls of spare parts reception areas, which goes: “Rules are meant to be broken.”

On a recent night, when my husband was away on business, I added this adage to my TV addiction. I broke the rules and flicked on Toddlers and Tiaras.

I saw eight-month-old babies wearing make-up, three-year-olds pretending to be Madonna and a mother who’d had so much plastic surgery she could have been used as a salad spinner.

I saw a girl who couldn’t have been more than half a metre high wearing metre-high shoes. I saw a lot of tiny, white teeth. I saw lipstick, cut-away dresses and miniature MILFs clutching teddies (the bear version, not the lingerie). It was craptivating.

The pre-pageant dressing room resembled a gas chamber. One three-year-old called Courtney or Isabella or Angelica or Michaela (take your pick) cried, unsurprisingly, like a baby as the stylist gassed her with a can of hairspray. The end-result gave new meaning to stiff competition.

In another scene, one of the six-year-olds wiggled like a genie out of a space rocket prop, and then plummeted into a gap between the curtain and the stage. She had bruises. Her Botoxed mother pretended to be as filled with concern as her upper lip.

The girl’s father kept touching his trucker cap. “If she wants to go back on, she can,” he said (or something like that). “I ain’t pushing her.”

Yeah, right. All girls are born with an inherent desire to prance around on a stage in Las Vegas wearing monokinis, Dallas hair and a smile even Michael Mol would find false.

All girls naturally want to forgo playing in the park/swinging on swings/building houses out of sheets to spend every waking hour practising the words to Last Friday Night while looking like a stunted call girl.

I know when I was born I couldn’t wait to get out of that ill-decorated hospital ward and into a world of showbiz, Katy Perry tunes and leather nappies.

The only appropriate sentence for the parents of these toddlers is death or a stint of being in a pageant themselves.

“And here we have Mrs Courtney, mother of two, slightly saggy around the midriff, red of neck, trash of trailer, an advocate for piercing the ears of three-day-olds,” the compere will announce.

“And with her is Mr Courtney, a digger driver from Arkansas. He had brown hair before the scalp set in, blue eyes and likes to try on sequinned jumpsuits.”

Then we’d see who the show is really about.

It’s ridiculous that these parents haven’t been arrested by social services. Not only are they subjecting their kids to a form of torture involving fake eyelashes, pore-clogging rouge and a camp judge who looks like the spawn of Mike Myers and a vampire, but they are moulding their daughters into women who believe they are owed everything based on how they look.

Add to that the tawdry sense of competition that pervades these pageants – “Like, I so better than Kylie,” one mini-Madonna will gurgle. “She can’t even do da splits and I WANT dat trophy” – and in 15 years’ time, these pointy-breasted, pre-pre-schoolescent princesses will be the girls who sleep with fat boys for a laugh (and post the videos on YouTube, complete with close-up bum shots) and spread rumours about what their friend does with a cat.

I don’t wish death on the toddlers. The chemicals in the foundation will take care of that. And because I’ve been on a Buddhist course about being really nice to really stupid people, I probably don’t want the parents to die in a wall of flames, a breast implant explosion, a red carpet bombing or a digger accident (although the latter would be awesome on 1000 Ways To Die.)

But what I do want is to drink less wine when my husband goes away. After 15 glasses, my TV firewall crumbles and even My Big Fat Gypsy Toenail Clipping seems edifying. But I’d rather watch violent nature documentaries than Toddlers and Tiaras. At least in the animal kingdom, parents only devour their young by mistake.