Dame Prue Leith has responded to the backlash after she admitted she drowned a litter of kittens as a child.
Recalling the horrific memory in her memoir I’ll Try Anything Once, the Great British Bake Off judge revealed the incident left her tramatised after her mother, Margaret Inglis, instructed her to sink the baby cats just hours after their birth.
‘My mother and I, then 11, had just drowned some kittens… and for weeks I imagined those poor dead creatures,’ she wrote.
She shared that her mother then had a change of heart, but the baker insisted they continued and added: ‘I held the bag under water until the last kitten had stopped mewing.’
It was a moment the reality TV show judge was never able to forget, but she hadn’t foreseen the uproar, as fans flocked to social media in horror at the incident and the 82-year-old’s ‘disturbing behaviour.’
‘I became public enemy number one,’ the South African chef told People. ‘They don’t read the story and they feed off each other. Somebody says, ‘My God! That woman drowns kittens!’ And it just spiraled from there.’
She explained that some comments and posts were ‘awful’ but that she found those who critisised her role on Bake Off and the show itself especially hard to stomach.
‘It was so awful because people were saying things like, ‘I’ll never watch Bake Off again.’ I mean, what’s it got to do with Bake-Off?
‘Bake-Off is the kindest, most inclusive, most friendly show in the world. They wouldn’t have me on if they thought I was a kitten drowner.’
Putting some context around the incident in her childhood, she explained the practice, though horrific, was the norm in South Africa in the early 1940s to try to maintain the cat population.
She added she had ‘never known’ her mother to drown kittens before and ‘presumed they were drowned by somebody else.’
‘Thankfully today in the U.K. we have the choice of neutering our cats and have more options to home kittens, although sadly in some parts of the world it is still an issue.’
‘I can’t bear the thought that people on Twitter really think that I would want to drown kittens,’ Dame Prue continued.
The chef, born in Cape Town, South Africa, before moving to London aged 20, said that having the media to get her side of the story out helps when any sort of controversy arises due to her job and role as a public figure.
‘Talking to [the media] is quite cathartic because I can actually explain what really happened.’
The Great British Bake Off final airs on Tuesday at 8pm on Channel 4.