This is a departure from what I usually post here. The tagline for this blog is “please don’t take anything you read here seriously”, but I hope people actually will take this seriously.I’m a cat person. I have two cats; when I make travel plans, the first person I call is my cat-sitter, and when I return home, the thing I look forward to most is being greeted by my cats. I’ve learned how to type with a cat between me and the keyboard. While writing this post, I’ve stopped a couple times to do important cat-related things (like throwing toys across the floor so one cat can chase them, or picking up a cat and carrying him over to the wall so he can sniff the light switches). In other words, the only reason I’m not a card-carrying crazy cat lady is that, as far as I know, there is no card-issuing crazy cat lady organization.
But the point is, I like cats. And I don’t like it when bad things happen to cats. And I really don’t like it when people deliberately do bad things to cats. So when I saw the now-famous surveillance video of a woman throwing a cat into a trash can, I was incensed. If you haven’t seen it, the video shows a woman walking down a street, then stopping to pet a cat. The cat jumps onto a wall, the woman plays with her some more and then picks her up, drops her into a trash can, closes the lid, and walks off. The cat spent 15 hours in the bin with no food, water, or fresh air, until her owners finally found her. She’s fine now. The woman, whose name turned out to be Mary Bale, was found pretty quickly. She apologized, but she also made some pretty inflammatory statements (for future reference, if you’re accused of animal cruelty, you might want to avoid the phrase “it’s just a cat”).
I’m trying not to judge Ms. Bale too harshly. I have no idea why she did what she did — perhaps she has some kind of mental illness. Or maybe it’s more complicated than that — she apparently works in a bank, and I’ve seen movies in which people kidnap the families of bank employees in order to force them to rob the banks where they work. Maybe something like that happened here, but in this case the kidnappers lost sight of their original goals and made her do the cat thing instead (or, alternatively, maybe they told her to rob her bank, and she misunderstood their directions). Or something. Apparently the police and RSPCA are investigating.
My very first thought after seeing the video was something like “I hope they find that woman, throw her into a dumpster for 15 hours and see how she likes it”, which seems to be a pretty common reaction for cat lovers. My second thought (“no, wait — that would be crazy”) also turned out to be pretty common, although it turns out that it comes in two variations: mine (“no, wait — that would be crazy; revenge scenarios like that have no place in civilized society”) and the other version (“no, wait — that would be crazy; we need to adjust for life expectancy and lock her in a dumpster for 70 hours”).
I’ve been following this story online, and people’s opinions tend to be spread across a spectrum, but basically there are some people who think that Mary Bale should be drawn and quartered, some who think that what she did should be illegal and that the local police and RSPCA should handle it, and some who think that it’s no big deal and everyone else is overreacting. People have posted Ms. Bale’s home and work addresses and phone numbers and called for her to be fired from her job (which, unless English banks are very different from those in the US, doesn’t involve working with animals at all).
I am not a fan of Mary Bale. If she has some underlying mental condition, I hope she gets treatment for it, and if not, I hope she’s prosecuted for her actions. But I have a request for anyone out there who’s posting Ms. Bale’s home address, or calling her at home or at work, or demanding that she be fired from her job: please stop. You’re not helping. You’re just making the discussion more polarized. Either the legal system will bring her to justice, or it won’t. If it doesn’t, the goal shouldn’t be to punish this one woman for this one well-publicized act; it should be to change the system so that the next time someone does something like this, they can be prosecuted without the assistance of half the Internet.
Maybe you find this case infuriating and are overcome with a desire to do something. So, do something. Something constructive. Find out what your local animal cruelty laws are, and if you don’t like them, work to change them. Donate money to an animal-related charity. Sign up to volunteer in an animal shelter. Adopt a cat. Have a rational discussion with someone about animal cruelty. But please, don’t do anything that will make Mary Bale seem reasonable in comparison.