Great British Bake Off Judge Prue Leith Responds To Kitten Drowning Backlash

The Great British Bake Off, is a show known for being one of the best reality shows on TV, and its friendly and undramatic nature. However, when controversy does crop up its always fairly odd drama. From the backlash about a squirrel’s penis, to some viewers being offended by Johnny Depp, the controversy surrounding this show is always surprising. Now, there is backlash because of a story told in Bake Off judge Prue Leith’s memoir, about her mother asking her to drown a litter of kittens that had just been born. However, the baking judge has now provided a response and some clarity about the whole situation.

Following the release of an excerpt from her book I’ll Try Anything Once in The Huffington Post UK telling the kitten story, people shared their thoughts on social media, calling Leith’s actions “disturbing behavior” and questioning if she should still be a judge on the incredibly popular show. In lew of all this backlash, Leith responded, telling People:

I became public enemy No. 1. 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.

Along with this comment, she also explained that she couldn’t “bear the thought” that people really thought she “would want to drown kittens.” While she was specifically called out on social media, what really bothered the chef was those who threatened to never watch Bake-Off again.

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.

Leith went on to provide context as to why she was asked to drown kittens. She said in the early 1940s it was common practice in South Africa, where she was living at the time, to drown kittens to “maintain the cat population.” She continued, saying she doesn't really know why she was asked to watch, but she did recall the story of what happened when she was 11, explaining: 

I don't know how it happened, but one day my mother said, 'We have to drown these little kittens.' And I guess perhaps she thought it would be a life lesson for me. It was the most traumatic, awful, horrible experience.

In her book, Leith wrote that her mother had tried to find homes for the kittens, but when she was unable to she decided to drown them. When the author found out about her mother’s plans, she tried to stop them. However, her mom responded by saying “it has to be done,” and Leith had the image of the “poor dead creatures” in her head for “weeks.” 

It sounds like Leith was traumatized by this experience, and I don’t think viewers should be so quick to stop watching the show before hearing her whole story. 

If you are interested in checking out Leith and the other judges on the most pleasant reality show on the 2022 TV schedule, you can watch The Great British Bake Off, or The Great British Baking Show as it’s called here in the states, every Friday with a Netflix subscription. You can also learn more about it by reading CinemaBlend’s fun facts about the Baking Show

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is a Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She spent many years working in local journalism across the country writing about art, news and sports. One of her favorite films is When Harry Met Sally and she walks around constantly quoting Ted Lasso.