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West Ham United have been heavily criticised for their decision to start Kurt Zouma in their Premier League meeting with Watford.

The 27-year old was included in the Hammers starting XI less than 24-hours after he was forced to apologise for abusing his pet cat.

Zouma was filmed drop-kicking a pet cat across his kitchen, in front of a child, as the person filming laughs. The video was shared to Snapchat by the defender's brother, Yoan.

As the video went viral, West Ham responded with a statement saying, "West Ham United unreservedly condemns the actions of our player, Kurt Zouma, in the video that has circulated,” the English Premier League club said in a statement.

“We have spoken to Kurt and will be dealing with the matter internally, but we would like to make it clear that we in no way condone cruelty towards animals.”

Despite that, David Moyes started Zouma ahead of Issa Diop on Tuesday night, leading to stern criticism online.

Speaking to BT Sport prior to the game, the Hammers' boss was asked if he considered dropping Zouma.

"No, because he is one of our better players," he replied, "But it is certainly ongoing and the club are dealing with it, so that is a separate matter."

Zouma issued an apology, claiming his cats are "loved and cherished" by his entire family, and that he deeply regrets his actions.

An RSPCA spokesperson said, "This is a very upsetting video. It's never acceptable to kick, hit or slap an animal, for punishment or otherwise.

“We are so grateful to people who report suspected animal suffering to us and we would like to reassure people we will always look into and, if necessary, investigate any complaints made to us about animal welfare."

Among those responding to Zouma's inclusion in the West Ham team were Sky Sports' Jeff Stelling, who tweeted: That’s certainly taught Zouma a lesson, West Ham. He must be repentant now having suffered for so long before he wears the clubs shirt again!"

Talksport's Hugh Woozencroft added, "Unbelievable West Ham are starting Kurt Zouma. Truly disgraceful decision."

While Mark Austin of Sky News was one of the many who questioned, "What on earth is David Moyes thinking ?"

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