Conservationist Chris Packham and the Mayor of London have condemned West Ham for playing Kurt Zouma in Tuesday’s match against Watford.
09 February 2022
Kurt Zouma’s two cats have been taken into the care of the RSPCA after the footballer was filmed kicking one of them.
The charity said the pets were “safe and in our care” as it investigates following the emergence of a video showing Zouma dropping, kicking and slapping the animal.
It comes as West Ham came under fire for playing the defender in Tuesday’s match against Watford.
Conservationist Chris Packham, a vocal advocate of animal rights who has presented BBC’s Springwatch series, branded the decision to put him on the pitch an “absolute disgrace”.
And Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was “disappointed” in West Ham manager David Moyes for the choice.
Mr 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 is no way he that would have been on the pitch.
“And this is not just about football, these footballers are now role models to millions of people so in a way they set public standards and what David Moyes showed last night was that he had no regard for people’s opinion of public standards when it came to animal welfare.”
West Ham said Zouma had been fined the “maximum amount possible” – two weeks’ wages, reported to be in the region of £250,000 – which will be donated to animal welfare charities and that he would be co-operating fully with the ongoing investigations.
Zouma, who joined the Hammers from Chelsea in August 2021, also released a statement, apologising for his actions and expressing his regret.
But Mr Packham added: “This was something that they felt, I presume, they could get away with because it was a man kicking and a defenceless, fragile animal and that’s not something that we tolerate here in the UK and we shouldn’t tolerate it anywhere in the world and David Moyes and West Ham United last night appeared to sanction that behaviour, they gave it some validity and hiding behind a pathetic apology coming from the player after the actions that we saw yesterday on social media was no defence whatsoever.”
Mr Khan told Sky News he was “disappointed” in Mr Moyes and urged authorities to prosecute Zouma.
He said: “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 actually. I know how important three points are, I support a club as well, but I think they should have shown leadership and dropped him last night.
“And I worry when young people see Premier League footballers getting away with bad behaviour, or prime ministers or anyone else and thinks it’s okay and you can be successful and that’s why it’s really important for leaders and role models and, whether you’re a footballer or the mayor or, you know journalists, we’re role models, and we should lead by example.”
Essex Police have confirmed they are liaising with the RSPCA as part of their “urgent enquiries”.
The RSPCA said: “We’d like to reassure people that we’re investigating and the cats are safe and in our care.
“We have been dealing with this since before the clip went viral online and we need to follow the proper legal process and not discuss due to UK GDPR laws.”
A statement from West Ham said: “West Ham United can confirm that the club is supporting an RSPCA investigation into the actions of Kurt Zouma in the video circulated online this week.
“Kurt and the club are co-operating fully with the investigation and the player has willingly complied with the steps taken in the initial stage of the process, including delivering his family’s two cats to the RSPCA for assessment.
“Kurt is extremely remorseful and, like everyone at the club, fully understands the depth of feeling surrounding the incident and the need for action to be taken.”