West Ham footballer Kurt Zouma pled guilty to violating the Animal Welfare Act by kicking and slapping his cat and causing the cat “unnecessary suffering.” His brother, Yoan Zouma, who plays for Dagenham and Redbridge, filmed the incident and was accused of abetting, counselling or procuring Kurt to violate the law. Kurt was sentenced to do 180 hours of community service and prohibited from keeping any cats for five years. Yoan was sentenced to 140 hours of community service and also prohibited from keeping cats for five years. Court costs of £9,000 were also assessed. This is all in addition to the £250,000 fine imposed on Kurt by West Ham.
The Animal Welfare Act prohibits the infliction of “unnecessary suffering.” This clearly includes at least suffering imposed for reasons of pleasure, amusement, or convenience. The Zoumas violated the law because there was no justification for kicking and slapping the cat. They imposed gratuitous harm on the cat.
What the Zouma brothers did was clearly and unequivocally morally and legally wrong. But their prosecution raises a simple and direct question: how are they any different from the rest of us? Why aren’t we all being sentenced to community service along with the Zoumas?
Every year, we kill about 80 billion land animals for food. About one billion animals are killed in the United Kingdom. The number of fish slaughtered annually is estimated to be between one and almost three trillion. That is a great deal of suffering and death.
What is our justification for this?
There certainly may be times when there is no choice and we must kill animals in order to survive. But that circumstance accounts for a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction of the staggering number of animals we slaughter every year. For the most part, we eat animals because we think they taste good and animal foods are conveniently available. We derive pleasure from consuming animals; there is no necessity. The NHS — and just about every other governmental or professional body in other countries, such as the American Dietetic Association in the U.S. — maintains that we can live a healthy life without consuming animal products. Indeed, an increasing number of mainstream health care professionals are…