Britain is a nation of pet lovers. So why is this happening? Discuss

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The Independent Online

Britons are supposed to be a soft-hearted lot when it comes to animals. We spend around £4bn a year pampering the beasts in our lives. Yet, if last week's headlines are anything to go by, we're not as kind to our furry friends as we like to believe.

From microwaved hamsters to cats dumped in wheelie bins to dogs abandoned in the woods, it seems there is a culture of gratuitous cruelty just beneath our sentimental reputation. And while Middle England may rise in outrage, much of the cruelty is discovered after it is filmed and posted on the internet, suggesting many find perverse pleasure in watching acts of cruelty.

The RSPCA brings 2,000 prosecutions a year for cruelty. "Now, with CCTV and the internet, the cruelty is out there more," an RSPCA spokeswoman said.

"We investigate 100,000 cases every year. Recently we've had calls from people facing financial difficulties or because they have been evicted and their new home won't accept animals."

Goldfish Chris Caswell, 30, was arrested on Friday after buying a goldfish in a pet shop, swallowing it whole and posting the footage on Facebook.

Susie Anthony Parker, 29, microwaved his girlfriend's hamster after a drinking bout following a row. He was jailed for nine weeks on Tuesday.

Lola Mary Bale, 45, became public enemy number one for dumping Lola in a wheelie bin last month. She was charged with animal cruelty last week.

Smokie Smokie the kitten was found on a rubbish dump in Hull on Tuesday after being thrown in a bin, and then loaded into an industrial crusher.

Amos A rabbit dumped in a carrier bag outside a rescue centre in Dundee earlier this month was so neglected its teeth reached over its nose.

Sidney The goat had to be put down after its horns were ripped out and its legs broken in an attack in Greater Manchester earlier this month.

Bilbo Darron Goodwin, 41, from Poole, will be sentenced this week for feeding his Staffordshire puppy antidepressants and suffocating it with a towel.

Pink The stray white cat was dyed pink and thrown over a garden fence in Swindon on Friday. The RSPCA denounced the stunt as a "sick prank".