Does Kristen Lindsey deserve to die?

Orange catPeople are angry. There are calls for Kristen Lindsey, the veterinarian in Texas who allegedly shot a cat with an arrow, to be killed. Strung up from the nearest tree. Shot through the head. Tied up and dragged behind a car. Skinned alive. Many say she should kill herself and save all of the outraged readers the trouble. Save the state the cost of a trial.

She didn’t set off a bomb in a public place, or commit genocide. She didn’t join ISIL and behead journalists, drive drunk and kill someone with a car, burn down a school full of children, or shoot a police officer. She didn’t bilk old ladies out of their retirement money, didn’t sell drugs to ten year olds, didn’t sit in a clock tower with a gun and pick off strangers.

She didn’t even, as far as we know for fact at this time, commit a crime. At least, the police are not laying charges. She shot a cat that may have been owned (or not, nothing is confirmed). On her own property.

Do I think she’s cruel? If the story is true, then of course. Even though the cat probably died instantly, the act was cruel in that it was heartless and showed no consideration at all for the value of the life of the cat. It was cruel to the cat’s owners, if indeed this cat is owned. And it ended the cat’s life.

But we have a justice system for a reason. She is responsible to society, and if she has done anything criminal the courts are the proper place to have it dealt with. She is responsible to a licensing body and a code of ethics, and if she has done anything wrong the veterinary board is the proper place to have that dealt with. She is responsible to her employers, and they have already taken the steps they deem proper to deal with behavior that runs contrary to their workplace and professional philosophy.

This woman is going to be dealing with the fallout from this action for a very long time, just on a professional level. She may lose her license to practice in Texas. Other jurisdictions may not want to grant her a license. If that happens, she won’t be practicing anywhere in the country any time soon. She may have to give up veterinary medicine altogether, permanently or temporarily. Her good name and whatever reputation in she had in the veterinary community and, thanks to the internet, in the wider community is ruined.

That is probably enough. That is an enormous consequence; maybe people don’t realize just how devastating this will be for her. Her life will never be the same again. A witch hunt will do nothing to change her attitude, or force her to realize exactly why what she did is so upsetting to so many people. (I personally think that she simply will never get it. People who, by her age, don’t value animal lives never will, in my experience.)

So what exactly does all of the invective do, aside from making us into exactly the kind of person she is? We appear to be people who don’t care about hurting others, or who don’t consider the impact of our actions. We need to be better than that. Loving, without hatred. Protective, but not violent. Holding ourselves and others to account, but not vengeful. Strong enough to take the longer and harder road of effective action, not the easy path of words that explode with force but produce no sustained results. We need to be the people that the animals need us to be.

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4 thoughts on “Does Kristen Lindsey deserve to die?

  1. Thank you. I am a veterinarian, and while I find Dr. Lindsey’s alleged actions reprehensible and I agree she probably does not deserve to be in the profession, I also find the mob cries for justice horrifying. Dr. Lindsey kept a blog at one point and the last entry on it is filled with comments from people who have found it, wishing horrible things upon her and her family, and trying to find her personal information so it can be put in the public space for people to harass her.

    What she did was horrific, even if the cat is a stray. That does not given anyone else the right to treat her the way they believe she treated the cat. We *do* need to be better.

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  2. Recently I read a piece about doing real harm to real people via twitter (tho it applies to all internet connections/applications). It focused first on Justine Sacco, who lost her job due to a single tweet, then went on to showcase others who made (what they considered funny but innocent) internet posts. It was positively frightening how quickly the mob mentality took flight. How quickly people who didn’t know the person in the spotlight, caused real harm to others. Job loss, unable to find another job, how quickly the media showed up at private homes. I have seen the title of what happened in this post on internet bulletin boards but chose not to read it. I hope this woman thinks a little about what she puts up on the internet, before doing so again.

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  3. I find what she did to be horrible but I agree that she will suffer the consequences of her action for some time to come and that is enough. No one has the right to be judge and jury unless they are perfect. I for one am not.

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