In case this hasn’t reached the US press yet (though it’s definitely in the blogosphere), Britain is in an uproar at the moment regarding a woman whose casual act of animal cruelty was caught on camera.
The owners of a small and friendly cat named Lola became concerned when they couldn’t find their pet. Eventually, attracted by the plaintive meows, they located Lola trapped in the bottom of their large wheeled garbage bin, which was sitting out by the fence. Now, it so happens that the family had previously had problems with vandalism, and had installed a CCTV camera on their front walk. So they viewed the footage to see how on earth their cat ended up in the trash bin.
What they saw was a middle-aged woman petting their cat, who was standing on the top of their garden wall. And then, after looking up and down the street to see if anyone was watching, the woman opened the lid of their garbage bin, picked up Lola by the scruff of the neck, dropped her in the bin, clapped the lid down and walked away without a backward glance.
There the cat remained, in the dark and without food or water, until her owners found her 15 hours later.
The owners posted the video on the web, wondering if anyone could identify the woman. It didn’t take long. Soon she was named as Mary Bale, and the RSPCA announced it would be interviewing her.
Being investigated for animal cruelty turned out to be the least of Mary Bale’s problems. The video went viral in Britain, and public outrage hit the redline almost instantly. There were death threats. Bale was assigned protective security. Baffled by the outcry, she made the following statement:
“I really don’t see what everyone is getting so excited about. It’s just a cat,” Bale said. “I was walking home from work and saw this cat wander out in front of me. I was playing with it, stroking it and listening to it purr as it stood on a garden wall. It was very friendly.
“I don’t know what came over me, but I suddenly thought it would be funny to put it in the wheelie bin, which was right beside me. I did it as a joke because I thought it would be funny. I never thought it would be trapped. I expected it to wriggle out of the bin.”
Bale added: “”People are reading too much into things. I’ve no feelings about cats one way or the other. I don’t keep pets myself, but I have no problem with people who do.
“To think this video is being seen around the world is unbelievable. I’m a very private person and don’t want to upset any members of my family. I don’t know what my relatives will think, but to be honest I think everyone’s overreacting a bit.
“OK, I shouldn’t have done it, but it’s just a cat at the end of the day. I don’t think I deserve to be hated by people all over the world, it was just a split second of madness.”
Unsurprisingly, telling an outraged public that you thought your casual act of cruelty would be “funny,” and that people shouldn’t get so excited because “it’s just a cat,” turned out not to help matters much. The furor rose even higher. The video hit YouTube and the news crossed the Atlantic to land in US blogs.
Then Bale, whose name, address and place of work were now public knowledge, issued a new statement. The change in tone was dramatic:
“I want to take this opportunity to apologise profusely for the upset and distress that my actions have caused.
“I cannot explain why I did this, it is completely out of character and I certainly did not intend to cause any distress to Lola or her owners.
“It was a split second of misjudgement that has got completely out of control.
“I am due to meet with the RSPCA and police to discuss this matter further and will co-operate fully with their investigations.
“I wish to reiterate that I am profoundly sorry for my actions and wish to resolve this matter to everyone’s satisfaction as soon as possible.”
Doesn’t sound like the same person, does it? I suspect that’s because it’s not. My guess is that the latter statement was penned by Bale’s hastily-retained lawyer, who clearly has a better understanding of how not to turn a bonfire into a conflagration.
One does wonder how many cats Bale has thrown in trash bins before now. Fortunately for Lola and her owners, the trash wasn’t collected the day this particular cat was friendly toward the wrong woman. Unfortunately for Mary Bale, today’s proliferation of CCTV, phone cameras, camcorders, and online social networks makes it far more difficult to have an anonymous “split second of madness.”