Kurt Zouma’s shocking cat-attack video did not impact the decision to start the West Ham defender against Watford because “he is one of our better players”, said manager David Moyes.
Zouma was condemned by his club, the RSPCA and other animal welfare groups after a disturbing video emerged of him hitting, dropping, and kicking his pet across his kitchen floor on Monday.
The 27-year-old France international issued an apology but Essex Police have since confirmed “urgent enquiries” are underway in conjunction with the RSPCA.
There was widespread outrage and revulsion towards the video – and Experience Kissimmee, one of the club’s sponsors, has said it is “evaluating” its ongoing relationship with the club – but boss Moyes controversially stuck with Zouma, naming him in the Hammers’ starting line-up for Tuesday’s Premier League match against Watford at the London Stadium.
Jarrod Bowen edges West Ham past Watford as Kurt Zouma plays full match’I’m deeply sorry’ – Kurt Zouma apologises after kicking his cat
When asked before kick-off if the video had had any influence on his decision to play Zouma against Watford, Moyes told BT Sport: “No, because he is one of our better players. But it is certainly ongoing and the club are dealing with it, so that is a separate matter.”
Moyes comments came shortly after Essex Police released a statement confirming they were conducting their own enquiries into the incident, which the Metropolitan Police had decided against investigating earlier on Tuesday.
The statement read: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media relating to an incident involving a cat which members of our communities may find distressing.
“We have recently been made aware that this incident may have taken place in Essex and we are liaising with the RSPCA and urgent enquiries are ongoing.”
Moyes: I’m a big animal lover
Speaking after West Ham’s 1-0 victory over Watford – in which Zouma played the full 90 minutes – Moyes confirmed the defender would remain available for selection while the club’s interval investigation runs its course.
“Yes, he will [remain available],” Moyes said. “The club will sort the rest of it out. I’ll look after the football side.
He added: “I’m really disappointed, and the club have taken all the action they can do at the moment behind the scenes. My job is to pick the best team and Kurt was part of that.
“I’m a big animal lover and it’s something that will have affected a lot of people.
“I was completely disappointed with what I saw and what I was told, but my job was to try and find a way to get a win for West Ham. Some people will be disappointed and I understand that.
“I’m someone who cares a lot about my dogs and my horses. The club are dealing with it as you well know.
“I’ve already spoken to him and we’ll move on as much as we can. We understand it’s not something everybody is pleased about. It’s a really poor situation.
“Was it the wrong call? My feeling was Kurt’s apologised. I understand lots of people won’t just accept that. But I had to do my job then, and that was to pick the best team I could.
“He’s obviously really disappointed and we’ve all felt it through the team and through the club. We are all of the same feeling it was completely out of order from Kurt and we didn’t expect that.
“I always felt I had to try and separate them and let the club do their side and I’ll do my side which is the football side. I think you are talking to one of the most disciplinarian managers there is.
“It’s something which we are all really disappointed with and the club are dealing with it. Kurt is in our first XI so my decision was to play him.”
Asked whether he was surprised at Zouma’s inclusion, Watford boss Roy Hodgson said: “I never concern myself with those things, that’s not my business.
“That’s the business of the club. I didn’t expect him not to play, he’s one of their better players and it’s something the club has to deal with.”
RSPCA condemn ‘very upsetting’ video
Zouma’s brother, Yoan, is believed to have filmed the incident inside the defender’s home before posting it to Snapchat on Sunday afternoon, just a day after West Ham’s FA Cup fourth-round win at Kidderminster.
Zouma can be seen in his kitchen picking up the cat before dropping it and booting it into the air across the kitchen. He is also seen chasing the Bengal cat around his dining room in front of a child while the cameraman is heard laughing.
The £30m former Chelsea centre-back is then filmed throwing a pair of shoes at the animal as it tries to escape. A final clip shows him slapping the cat in the face and out of the child’s arms.
Animal welfare charity the RSPCA condemned Zouma’s actions and reiterated the importance of reporting suspected animal suffering.
“This is a very upsetting video. It’s never acceptable to kick, hit or slap an animal, for punishment or otherwise,” an RSPCA spokesperson said.
“We are so grateful to people who report suspected animal suffering to us and we would like to reassure people we will always look into and, if necessary, investigate any complaints made to us about animal welfare.”
Zouma: I’m deeply sorry
Zouma issued an apology for the attack and insisted it was an isolated incident.
“I also want to say how deeply sorry I am to anyone who was upset by the video,” he said. “I would like to assure everyone that our two cats are perfectly fine and healthy.
“They are loved and cherished by our entire family, and this behaviour was an isolated incident that will not happen again.”
A West Ham statement said: “West Ham United unreservedly condemns the actions of our player, Kurt Zouma, in the video that has circulated.
“We have spoken to Kurt and will be dealing with the matter internally, but we would like to make it clear that we in no way condone cruelty towards animals.”