Rosa Santos, the 64-year-old woman who allowed her cat to be used in a “cruel and barbaric” cat-burning ritual last year, has been slapped with a €450 fine.
Santos can pay the fine or serve community service, said the judge who read her sentence yesterday (November 23) at Vila Flor court.
It’s a verdict that was considered “adequate” and “historic” by Alexandra Moreira, legal representative for ANIMAL, one of the dozens of animal associations that filed official complaints against the ritual.
“It was the first time in Portugal that a case of animal mistreatment committed by a group, in a traditional ritual, made it to court,” she told journalists after the trial.
Moreira also highlighted that the Festas de São João – marked traditionally by the cat-burning ritual – were held this year “without harming any animals” (plastic balls were used instead of a cat).
The judge who read the sentence also stressed that “a tradition can only be respected when it is respectable,” adding that “no animal was used this year and that did not stop the celebration. Suffering does not have to be caused”.
The story caused outrage in June 2015 when a video was uploaded to YouTube.
It showed the traditional ritual taking place in the small northern village of Mourão in Vila Flor, Bragança – with several people setting fire to a wooden pole lined with hay.
People then watched in apparent delight as the fire reached the top of the pole, where the cat was held inside a clay pot.
When the pot fell to the ground, the cat ran away in flames before disappearing out of the sight of the camera.
Rosa Santos was the only person to admit her involvement in the episode.
Her defence was that the cat “was fine after the ritual” and that no animal had ever died as a result of its ordeal at the flaming end of the pole.
Leaving court after the verdict Santos refused to comment.