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KEZIA DUGDALE: Kurt Zouma should be made to pay a higher price for kicking and slapping pet cat

Kurt Kouma leaves court after he was given community service for abusing his pet cat. Photo: Story Picture Agency/Shutterstock.
Kurt Kouma leaves court after he was given community service for abusing his pet cat. Photo: Story Picture Agency/Shutterstock.

Kurt Zouma didn’t just kick his cat, he humiliated and abused it.

If you’ve seen the shocking video online, you’ll have witnessed the reality.

He threw the cat across a room with force and then chased it, egged on by his hapless little brother who filmed the whole thing before sending it to the girl he was due to date.

She thankfully decided to wash her hair that night.

A few days later the video was shared with the world instead.

The West Ham and French international pleaded guilty to animal cruelty.

For that he has received 180 hours community service.

He’s apologised for his behaviour and said sorry to his fan base.

You can’t help but feel he’s far sorrier about losing his sponsorship deal with Adidas though.

What does the Kurt Zouma cat attack say about him as a person?

Until last year, the maximum sentence for animal cruelty was just six months in England. It has since been revised to five years.

Zouma gets community service no doubt because of his guilty plea.

That reflects the fact he has saved court time and says nothing about the severity of the abuse he imposed on that poor animal.

The two cats he owned have been rehomed and he’s been banned from owning a cat for five years.

Kurt Zouma leaves court after he was sentenced for kicking his cat. Photo: Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock.

There’s nothing stopping him buying a hamster or a puppy tomorrow though.

So why isn’t he banned for life from owning a pet?

Should we not be more concerned about what his behaviour in this instance says about his behaviour more generally?

And if he’s capable of this type of violence, should he be a premier league footballer at all?

When punishment doesn’t meet the crime

Kurt Zouma is a role model for aspiring players across the UK and in his native France.

Young boys and girls will have his poster on their walls.

If they want to be like him, what are they learning from this whole story?

Zouma is reportedly West Ham’s highest paid player, transferring from Chelsea last year for just shy of £30million.

He’s assumed to be on around £125,000-a-week at the London Stadium.

For this behaviour he’s been fined £9,000. That’s just over 7% of his weekly wage.

If he’d been working full time on the national minimum wage, that would be the equivalent of £25.

Barely a parking ticket.

In what world is that a tough enough lesson or punishment to reflect the extent of his behaviour?

Sports people are role models, like it or not

Is it time we had a fit and proper person test for sport?

I’m talking particularly about elite levels like the SPFL and the Premier League.

Large numbers of people follow these teams, and many young fans look up to the players and are influenced by them.

West Ham United’s Kurt Zouma has said he is “deeply sorry” for kicking his cat. Photo: Steve Paston/PA Wire.

There are plenty of jobs in the world that you can’t do if you’ve ever been bankrupt.

Many others you can’t do if you have a criminal record.

Given the responsibility that footballers have as role models, shouldn’t there be set consequences for criminal convictions or morally bankrupt behaviour?

Because the roll call of footballers with criminal convictions isn’t a pretty list.

Joey Barton has a conviction for assault. He got a suspended sentence and was banned for playing for a few months.

Eric Cantona got 120 hours of community service for kung-fu kicking a fan.

The former England international Tony Adams served two months for drink driving before returning to play for Arsenal back in the 1990s.

Kung-fu kicking a supporter didn’t do Eric Cantona’s career any harm.

There’s a long list of players who’ve been caught, convicted and mildly punished before returning to even greater notoriety and financial success.

‘People weren’t racist because Kurt Zouma kicked his cat’

What these players all have in common, aside from bad behaviour and ego was no doubt exceptional legal teams who could talk the extent of their crimes down.

Zouma’s lawyer Trevor Burke QC argued in court that he’d be punished enough because of his lost standing and financial deals.

He also provided the court with the extent of the racial abuse he’d received online.

There’s never any excuse for that and we must stand against racism in all its forms.

But people weren’t racist because Kurt Zouma kicked his cat.

They were racist because they are racists.

They would still be racists if Zouma was a vegan and ran a highly respectable animal sanctuary.

It doesn’t wash.

Wealth is no defence

Anyone with pets knows that we get far more from our animals than they ever get from us.

Unconditional love, affection and laughter in return for two square meals and the occasional treat.

The vast majority of us love and respect the animals we care for.

So too should the legal system around us.

Saying sorry and spending a few weeks in a high vis jacket picking up litter feels a far cry short of the price Zouma should be paying.

The message this sends is that if you’re rich enough, the only thing you need to fear is being caught.

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