Last week, Mary Bale, a single, 45-year-old bank teller, was videotaped walking along a sidewalk in Coventry, England. This, in and of itself, is not unusual for England. Practically the entire country is monitored by videotape.
The videotape is without sound or color. It shows Bale walking down the sidewalk and pausing as a cat leaps atop a wall. She pets the cat, looks around, and then opens the cover of an adjacent garbage bin and deposits the cat inside. Bale then walks away without a second glance.
The cat was found alive the next day. Bale was identified as the perpetrator by the videotape, and the fur began to fly.
The cat’s owners posted the video on YouTube and local media jumped on the story. A “Death to Mary Bale” Facebook page sprouted almost overnight, with 18,000 members before the company removed it. Surprised by the extent of the anger, Bale was interviewed by the Daily Mail and tried to make light of the situation and pass it off as a “joke.” It didn’t help that she added to her apology, “I don’t know what the fuss is about. It’s just a cat.”
According to The Regulator, Bale is now under police protection for death threats. The cat, Lola, is safely home with her owners, and the ASPCA is investigating Bale for animal cruelty.
In order to predict what might happen to Bale, we can look to other infamous videos of human-to-animal interactions that have captured the public’s attention. The first that comes to mind is the February 2010 video that shows a SeaWorld trainer, Dawn Brancheau, just moments before her mauling death by Tilikum, an aptly named killer whale. The video showing Brancheau interacting normally with Tilikum was run repeatedly on the day of the incident; later in April, when a whistleblower alerted OSHA to possible violations; and most recently yesterday, when Brancheau’s family reported that they will seek damages for her death.
Neither the Bale nor the Brancheau videos show explicit violence. In the Bale video, the repellent act is recorded with banal indifference by an ordinary security camera. Brancheau’s video is bright and colorful in contrast to Bale’s, and it is sheer suspense, and bears watching only because the viewer knows these are Brancheau’s final seconds.
The contrast between the types of video, mentioned above, would also hold for the women themselves. Bale is a dowdy 45-year-old bank teller. Brancheau was a glamorous 40-year-old veteran trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.
Despite her attractiveness and the bold American aspect of her death, Brancheau’s story would have quietly passed away before the northeast’s blizzards of winter had it not been for the periodic finger-pointing, governmental investigation and now civil actions. Not one person I’ve asked today had any idea of her name. What they’ve remembered is that she was vibrant and glamorous and is now dead probably because of stunningly poor judgment by SeaWorld.
Thus, it’s hard to imagine that Mary Bale will be remembered. Her image on that stationary black-and-white video is hardly exotic. Her actions are calm, unhurried, and not at all dramatic — except for the sociopathy they demonstrate. Aside from a local Coventry ASPCA investigation, there aren’t any additional case “milestones” anticipated where this image might surface again. Bale’s video is so unremarkable and boring that it would fail as a good instructional tool against animal cruelty for the general public.
British residents will watch more grainy videos with much more compelling images, night after night, until Bale’s action is “recorded over,” so to speak. I’d wager that we’ve heard the last of Bale.