Unrepentant and Totally Shameless, Ieper Once Again Makes a Mockery of Its Past Crimes Against Cats by Staging Kattenstoet
"We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form."
-- William Ralph Inge
The forty-second edition of the triennial Kattenstoet (cats' parade) was held May 10th in the tiny northwestern Belgian city of Ieper. An estimated fifty-thousand spectators, including approximately one-hundred-sixty Japanese visitors, were on hand to witness the show. (See photo above.)
"Ik denk dat er nog nooit zoveel volk is geweest," Mayor Jean-Luc Dehaene told De Morgen of Brussels on May 10th. (See "Kattenstoet Ieper trekt ruim 50.000 toeschouwers.") "Persoonlijk vind ik dat we dit jaar goed geslaagd zijn om een evenwicht te zoeken tussen nieuwe, moderne elementen en respect voor de historische en traditionele uitbeeldingen." (See photo below of him alongside a celebrant cosmetized as a cat.)
Hoteliers certainly were pleased with the turnout in that there was scarcely a spare room to be found for miles around. Local merchants also cleaned up by selling souvenirs, posters, postcards, masks, and almost anything else that either bore the likeness of a cat or could be fashioned into resembling one.
Since both locals and out-of-towners had to be fed, local restaurants and confectioneries made out like bandits. So, too, did the bars where the beer flowed freely.
The parade itself featured in excess of two-thousand costumed cat dancers, marching bands, elaborately decorated floats, and a fireworks display afterwards. (See photo below of one of the many floats.)
All of that was well and good but for their own reasons parade organizers continue to include the odious practice of Kattenworp. This involves having a jester toss velvet and polyester replicas of cats from the bell tower of two-hundred-thirty-foot-high Cloth Hall to Grote Markt below. (See bottom photo.)
During the Middle Ages, Ieper was a bustling textile manufacturing town and in order to safeguard the finished products cats were recruited to keep Cloth Hall free of rodents. Once they started to multiply beyond their need, the ungrateful and predatory merchants rewarded them for their invaluable service by disposing of them via Kattenworp.
This thoroughly hideous practice prevailed from the fourteenth century until 1817 and must have cost thousands of cats and kittens their lives. Its current reincarnation featuring toy cats was inaugurated in 1938 and Kattenstoet was added eight years later. (See Cat Defender post of May 22, 2006 entitled "Belgian Ritual of Tossing Stuffed Cats from Belfry Makes Jest of Hideous Crimes of Capitalists and Catholics.")
The inclusion of Kattenworp demonstrates both a lack of taste as well as contrition on the part of the citizens of Ieper. Moreover, to celebrate the commission of past evils inflicted upon totally innocent cats is not any different than if practitioners of genocide were to dance jigs on the graves of their victims.
Not satisfied with glorying in their forefather's crimes against cats, the good citizens of Ieper also have made the burning of witches in effigy an integral part of Kattenstoet. While it is unclear if any alleged witches actually were burned in Ieper, it would not be surprising if they were considering as how the Catholic Church spent most of the Middle Ages on the warpath against both them and cats. (See Cat Defender post of July 30, 2009 entitled "Ferals Living at a Baltimore Church Find Out the Hard Way That Hatred of Cats Is Every Bit as Christian as Unleavened Bread and Cheap Wine.")
The crimes committed by both capitalists and Christians against cats and other animals are so extensive that they dwarf by a wide margin even their transgressions against their fellow man. "We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form," former Anglican priest and dean of St. Paul's Cathedral William Ralph Inge wrote in Outspoken Essays in 1922.
As most individuals now freely acknowledge, witches never did exist and there most definitely is nothing satanic about cats, black-colored ones included. Unfortunately, neither Kattenworp nor the burning of witches in effigy do anything to dispel these age-old prejudices.
If the city of Ieper had either any decency or conscience it would not only discontinue these loathsome practices but issue a formal apology for its past crimes against both cats and women In the final analysis, there is something inherently perverse about a city that insisits upon wallowing in its own wickedness.
Even though the citizens of Ieper may steadfastly insist that Kattenworp is clean, wholesome fun, it is important to remember that it was not always that way. "Though boys throw stones at frogs in sport, the frogs do not die in sport, but in earnest." the ancient Greek poet Bion once wrote.
So, too, was the case with the thousands of cats who had their brains smashed to smithereens and their bones splintered beyond repair when they landed in Grote Markt and that is something only an inveterate ailurophobe could celebrate.
Photos: De Morgen (Kattenstoet, Dehaene, and float) and City of Ieper (jester).