London (AFP) – More than 110,000 people have signed an online petition calling for West Ham defender Kurt Zouma to be prosecuted as part of a growing backlash over his abuse of his pet cat.
The France international has been widely condemned after a video emerged of him dropping, kicking and slapping the animal.
Police have confirmed they are liaising with animal welfare charity the RSPCA as part of “urgent enquiries” into the case.
West Ham said they “unreservedly condemn” the actions of Zouma, who apologised for his actions but was selected by manager David Moyes for Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Watford at the London Stadium.
A petition on Change.org 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.”
West Ham sponsor Experience Kissimmee — the club’s “official destination partner” — has said it “will be evaluating our relationship and sponsorship with the club” in light of the video.
Moyes, who insisted he was an “animal lover”, was criticised for playing Zouma on Tuesday but was adamant he had to do what was right for his club.
The defender got a taste of the growing public anger as he was relentlessly booed by Watford supporters, with even West Ham fans joining in some of the jeering.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan told Sky News that Zouma should be prosecuted, saying he should have been dropped from the team.
Conservationist Chris Packham branded Moyes’ decision to select Zouma an “absolute disgrace”, telling the BBC that a crime had been committed.
“I think it was a disgraceful decision,” he said. “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.”
The RSPCA condemned the “very upsetting” video after it surfaced online and will be leading the investigation and cooperating with Essex Police.
“We cannot comment further at this time, but we’re grateful to everyone who has brought this to our attention,” said a statement from the charity.
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