FOR those not already horribly familiar with West Ham footballer Kurt Zouma’s widely-viewed video exhibition of sickening cruelty to his cat, here are the bare bones of the story.
The French international player was apparently disgruntled to find the cat – one of two that he owns – had knocked over an ornament in his £2million London home. So he picked up the poor animal and drop-kicked it across his kitchen floor.
The incident was filmed by Zouma’s brother, Yoan, who can be heard laughing. The video goes on to show a child holding out the cat as Zouma hits it around its head with great force.
Yoan posted the video on Snapchat, with the opening comment ‘ça commence’ – French for ‘it is starting’ – accompanied by several laughing-face emojis.
West Ham condemned Zouma’s behaviour, but astonishingly did not immediately suspend him or dock his salary of £120,000 per week, saying the matter would be dealt with internally. Instead, he was picked by manager David Moyes to play in West Ham’s home match against Watford on Tuesday night.
But yesterday, amid a national outcry and the threat of losing sponsorships, the club fined the player £250,000 – apparently the maximum allowed – and suspended him from the next match. The fine will be donated to animal charities.
The RSPCA also acted by seizing Zouma’s cats and taking them to be cared for in safety, while police have reportedly been informed about the kicking incident.
So why did West Ham let Zouma play on Tuesday, when he was booed every time he touched the ball? The probable answer is ultimately money.
The absence of the 27-year-old defender could have affected West Ham’s place in the lucrative Premier League. Prize money is handed out on the basis of final league placings at the end of the season and the club is currently fourth from top.
It looks like keeping Zouma in the squad trumped any notion of decency or adherence to the law.
Cruelty to animals is a criminal offence, punishable in the worst cases with a prison sentence of five years. Let us hope this case is pursued through to the courts.
It surely cannot be claimed that it ‘would not be in the public interest’ to prosecute. Cruelty of this sort is seriously depraved in its own right, but that a child should witness and apparently take part in it should be a cause for concern, even for the most libertarian amongst us.
We are of course part of the animal kingdom. Supposedly stewards of creation, we should assume that a proper respect for the natural world – including our fellow creatures, who are in many cases dependent on us for their survival – is simply part of being a decent human being.
We accept, as we always have, that some will fall short of this ideal. But both Zouma and his brother displayed a worrying lack of empathy that at the very least might indicate an extremely dangerous form of stupidity.
However, what is equally disturbing is the reticence on the part of a wealthy British football club to do the right thing, promptly and decisively.