By now, you’ve probably heard of Kristen Lindsey. She’s the veterinarian from Brenham who’s given more bad press to the state than Blue Bell after she posted a picture on Facebook of herself, smiling and holding an arrow with a dead cat on the end of it:
Her “vet of the year” award never came—and, in fact, her status as a veterinarian was rescinded, at least temporarily, when the animal clinic at which she worked fired her once the photo went viral.
There are questions over whether or not the “feral tomcat” in the photo is really a feral tomcat; a neighbor of Lindsey’s who cat-sits an orange-and-white cat on the same street the photo was taken told KTRK that that cat has been missing. Regardless, the idea that someone whose job is to care for the health of cats, dogs, and other animals would think that “the only good feral tomcat is one with an arrow through its head” is one that plenty of people are having a hard time justifying.
Lindsey has no real defenders to speak of. Hunting advocates have not jumped out to support her, and the usual culture war nonsense that comes into play when people are outraged is not happening. Liberal or conservative, or anywhere in between, everybody loves their pets. There is no GoFundMe page to help her get back on her feet after losing her job. A Facebook page called “Support for Kristen Lindsey” has been removed, and the comments on it by the 143 members when it was active mostly continued to chastise her even as they urged people not to carry out the death threats she’s been receiving. Another “Kristen Lindsey Fan Page” has fewer than 100 members and appears to be the project of 4chan-style trolls.
There are plenty of people who find the fact that she merely lost her job to be insufficient, though. A “Justice for Cat Murdered by Kristen Lindsey” Facebook group has 44,000 members (and a profile image of Jesus snuggling an orange-and-white tabby), while one urging that “Police in Texas Prosecute Kristen Lindsey for Animal Cruelty” has 6,500.
The two groups are surprisingly sober—there are of course a few semi-coherent posts declaring Lindsey a monster and many posts from people sharing photos of their own pets with the hashtag #IAmTiger (the name of the cat that went missing on her block), or from people organizing cat food and cat toy drives. But there’s also a push to examine all of Lindsey’s social media accounts and look for clues that indicate that she’s a clear sociopath. Witness this widely shared post from the viral news site Inquisitr.com, which runs under the supremely clickable headline “Kristen Lindsey Dreamed of Being a Vet and Killing Animals, According to Old Blog.”
If you clicked that link expecting to find a rant about her desire to murder animals in her care, you’ll be out of luck. Instead, she merely mentions an interest in hunting, unrelated to her desire to pursue a career as a veterinarian:
“Current interests: Living my days to the fullest, finding the meaning of happiness, killing things or trying to kill things (animals, a full glass of whiskey, hangovers, etc), my friends (both near and far), spending time with my dad, the outdoors in general, fly fishing on Shell Creek until it’s too dark to see, hunting with my dad and better yet…learning from my dad as we hunt.”
In other words, the Internet-age condition through which we look to create absolute monsters out of people appears to be in effect with Lindsey too. Certainly, what she did was reprehensible, and in addition to being fired, it seems fairly unlikely that she’ll find work as a veterinarian again—any veterinary office that googles her name will see the photo of her holding the arrow, and it’s very difficult to imagine that leading to an employment offer when there are presumably other candidates who haven’t bragged about killing a cat.
If police do decide to prosecute Lindsey on animal cruelty charges, we won’t shed any tears. But it’s worth comparing the ire that she’s receiving to the reactions to the horrific vet story out of Fort Worth last year. In that case, a veterinarian was alleged to have tortured animals he had promised to euthanize, keeping sick animals in feces-packed cages after taking them from their owners and using their blood for transfusions. The veterinarian charged with animal cruelty in that case, Dr. Lou Tierce, lost his license and faces a criminal case—but 44,000 people didn’t lobby on Facebook for his punishment.
There is, of course, something viscerally horrible when someone appears gleeful about killing an animal. We imagine our own beloved pets on the end of the arrow (#IAmTiger), and we desperately want to see some sort of justice. The idea that Lindsey is unlikely to work with animals again may not be enough for people—but it’s also worth noting that we tend to react especially strongly to these stories when there’s a woman involved. Like the language used against Kendall Jones, the Texas Tech cheerleader/big-game hunter who shared photos online of herself with dead animals, the language used against Lindsey—“bitch,” “tramp,” and comments about her looks—suggests that some people are reacting even more strongly because she’s a woman.
There’s no question that killing cats—feral or domestic—with a bow is not becoming of a veterinarian. But while the Austin County district attorney’s office reviews the police investigation to determine if criminal charges are appropriate, it’s worth considering how much justice we can really expect for Tiger.