Kurt Zouma facing growing backlash over ill treatment of his cat

West Ham United v Watford – Premier League – London Stadium
(Image credit: Adam Davy)

Over 80,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Kurt Zouma to be prosecuted amid a growing backlash over his treatment of his pet cat.

The West Ham defender has been widely condemned after a video emerged of him dropping, kicking and slapping his pet cat, and Essex Police have confirmed they are liaising with the RSPCA as part of their “urgent enquiries”.

While West Ham said they “unreservedly condemn” the actions of Zouma, who apologised for his actions, the player was selected by boss David Moyes in the starting line-up for Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Watford.

West Ham’s Kurt Zouma lines up ahead of the Premier League match against Watford

West Ham’s Kurt Zouma lines up ahead of the Premier League match against Watford (Adam Davy/PA)

A petition on Change.org, started by Anti Animal Abuse, reads: “In the UK we have laws against the abuse of animals, laws which should be applicable to everyone rich or poor, famous or not!

“We ask that the Metropolitan Police and RSPCA carry out an urgent investigation and prosecute the perpetrators of this heinous act.

“Further we ask that the RSPCA remove all animals from Zouma’s ‘care’ immediately!

“Failure to take action in this case will send the message that animal abuse for entertainment is justified, that for the rich and famous breaking the law is no problem! Neither are acceptable!”

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Experience Kissimmee, West Ham’s official destination partner, has said it “will be evaluating our relationship and sponsorship with the club” after Zouma was selected for Tuesday’s match.

A post by Experience Kissimmee on Twitter said: “It was disheartening to learn that the player Kurt Zouma was part of the starting line in West Ham United’s game. As we wait for further information from WHU, we will be evaluating our relationship and sponsorship with the club.”

West Ham’s statement on Zouma said they would be “dealing with the matter internally”, adding “we would like to make it clear that we in no way condone cruelty towards animals.”

After the Frenchman then played in the match against Watford – during which he was subject to boos and chants from the crowd – Moyes said: “The club have taken all the action they can do at the moment behind the scenes. My job is to pick the best team and Kurt was part of that.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan gave his take on the matter, telling Sky News: “It’s despicable. I think a number of things need to happen urgently. I think the RSPCA and the police need to work together to prosecute this player.

“I’m disappointed in David Moyes and West Ham. I know how important three points are, but I think they should have shown leadership and dropped him last night.”

Conservationist Chris Packham has branded Moyes’ decision to select Zouma as an “absolute disgrace.”

Packham told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it was a disgraceful decision. I think if the footballer had released on social media a film of him taking drugs or beating his wife or his girlfriend or his children, there was no way he would have been on the pitch.

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“And this is not just about football. These footballers now are role models to millions of people, so in a way they set public standards, and what David Moyes showed last night is that he had no regard for people’s opinion of public standards when it came to animal welfare.

“Let’s be very clear, this is a crime that has been committed and it will be investigated. So to put him on the pitch last night did sport no favours, it did football no favours, and it did us as a nation of animal lovers no favours. It was an absolute disgrace.”

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Becky Thwaites, head of public affairs at national pet charity Blue Cross, said in a statement: “We were very disappointed to see West Ham make the decision to play Kurt Zouma last night. In our view it normalises his abhorrent behaviour and delivers the message it’s acceptable to treat a family pet that way.

“It gives the impression to young football fans watching last night that it doesn’t matter what he did to his cat, all that is important is football. We work with children all over the country to help them be safe around pets and learn to show them love and respect. Anyone in a position of influence, like Zouma, should be doing the same.

“We reiterate our full support for prosecution for cases like this, and for all animal cruelty.”

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The RSPCA condemned the “very upsetting” video after it surfaced online and will be leading the investigation and co-operating with Essex Police.

“We cannot comment further at this time, but we’re grateful to everyone who has brought this to our attention,” a statement from the charity read.

“We have received lots of messages on social media and our other channels, so we’re urging people to only contact our national cruelty line (0300 1234 999) if they have new or first-hand information.”

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