English Premier League football player Kurt Zouma is in big trouble. He kicked and slapped one of his cats. He has been fined £250k by West Ham, the team for which he plays. The cat he kicked and slapped, and another cat he has, were taken from him by the RSPCA, which is investigating him for possible prosecution that could lead to a prison sentence of five years. He’s lost endorsement deals and his native France is thinking of prosecuting him as well.
Why is everyone upset with Zouma?
Zouma acted wrongly because he harmed the cat unnecessarily. He had no good reason to harm the cat. He apparently got some perverse pleasure from kicking and slapping the cat. That’s bad.
What Zouma did was wrong but the reaction to what he did makes no sense whatsoever given what just about everyone else does.
We kill approximately 80 billion land animals, and an estimated one trillion sea animals, every year for food alone. Think about that, we kill for food every year more animals than the total number of humans who have ever lived on the earth. That’s a breathtaking amount of suffering and death. And it’s completely unnecessary. We do not need to eat animal foods for nutrition. Indeed, an increasing number of mainstream health care professionals are telling us that animal foods are detrimental to human health. We get gustatory pleasure from eating animals.
Let’s be clear: Those of us who are not vegan are no different morally from Kurt Zouma.
And then there’s RSPCA Assured line of all sorts of meat and dairy. That’s right, the RSPCA is putting its stamp of approval on animal products. So the RSPCA benefits from promoting the supposedly “humane” suffering and killing of animals. But they are investigating Zouma, and may prosecute him.
This is absolutely crazy. The most “humanely” treated animals used for food suffer no less — and probably a great deal more — than Zouma’s cat did. And they are killed. Zouma did not kill the cat.
And meanwhile, Benedict Cumberbatch will probably get an Oscar for his role in The Power of the Dog. In that film, he repeatedly hits a horse in the face. What’s the difference between hitting a horse and hitting a cat? There is none.
I repeat: what Zouma did was wrong but he is no different from any nonvegan, or from Benedict Cumberbatch.
In 2007, I made this exact point about Michael Vick, an American football player who was excoriated by lots of nonvegans for engaging in dog fighting.
It’s well past time for us to start thinking clearly about animal ethics.