BETWEEN 200 and 300 people gathered on Saturday evening to protest outside the Aglandjia tavern, Steki tou Kosti, against the mistreatment of a cat by members of staff the previous weekend. It was a large number of people, considering it was a hot and humid August evening, not ideal conditions for a protest march. But the relatively large number was a reflection of the hysteria that was whipped up on the internet, through social media. The tavern stayed closed on Saturday to avoid any trouble.
The abuse and threats directed at the owners of the tavern through the internet were shocking – there were calls for inflicting a painful death on them, torturing them, harming their children and burning down the tavern. Such hatred and viciousness is difficult to understand from anyone but much less so from people who call themselves animal-lovers. It just seemed paradoxical that people who were outraged about the cruelty shown to a cat wanted to treat the perpetrator with even greater cruelty. There is no sense of measure.
People have every right to take a stand against cruelty to animals, demand police action, expose perpetrators in the social media and call for boycotts of their business, but advocating violence or organising a lynch mob is unacceptable. The owners of the tavern apologised for the behaviour of a waiter and a relative of the family who had kicked and hit the cat with a stick; the waiter was sacked and the relative banned. Nobody knows whether there was any truth in the internet stories, alleging the cat had been killed, as the eye-witnesses that reported the case to police made no such claim.
The reaction was not only out of all proportion but it did not offer any constructive solution regarding the cat problem in the capital. There are thousands of stray cats everywhere and restaurant-owners also have a duty to keep them out of their establishments – not everyone likes to eat in the company of hungry felines waiting to be thrown a piece of food, while some people are allergic to cats.
The animal lovers could do something constructive, instead of stirring up hatred, by advising restaurant-owners how to keep cats away from their establishments without hurting them. Perhaps they could also launch a fund-raising campaign for neutering strays in order to keep the cat population down. Allowing an already huge population of hungry, feral cats scavenging through rubbish and carrying all sorts of diseases to keep on increasing is also a form of cruelty, but it does not seem to concern anyone.
Increased sensitivity over the treatment of animals is welcome, but there must be a sense of perspective, which the latest campaign singularly lacked.