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Animal cruelty content should be included in the UK’s Online Safety Bill

Animal abuse is ubiquitous and profitable on social media, and self-regulation has failed. The AfA Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition believes that the UK government should step in.

6 October 2021, United Kingdom - The Asia for Animals (AfA) Coalition has asked Member of Parliament Damian Collins to ensure that animal cruelty content is explicitly included in the scope of the UK government’s forthcoming Online Safety Bill. Mr Collins is the Chair of the UK Parliamentary Joint Committee established by the House of Lords and the House of Commons to scrutinise the proposed Online Safety Bill, the aim of which is to establish a new regulatory framework to increase accountability of online technology companies and protect users from harmful online content.

Animal cruelty content on social media is a serious and growing animal welfare issue. Its easy availability, and the failure of the tech platforms to self-regulate, also puts people at risk - particularly children and young adults, whose psychological development can be negatively affected by witnessing animal abuse. Animal cruelty content is produced in countries around the world. Regardless of where it is produced, its audience is global, and this is an issue of concern worldwide - including in the UK.

According to the RSPCA, nearly a quarter of UK schoolchildren aged 10-18 years had witnessed animal cruelty or neglect on social media. The AfA Coalition’s Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC) expects this shocking number to rise with the rapid proliferation of online animal cruelty content.

SMACC recently published their findings on the nature and volume of animal cruelty content available on three major social media platforms. Several dozen of the 5,480 cruelty content videos they documented were filmed in the UK, and several hundred were uploaded from the UK (second only to Indonesia and the USA). At the time the report was published, the videos had collectively been viewed 5,347,809,262 times.

Sarah Grant, Asia for Animals and SMAC Coalition Coordinator, says that “most of the videos we documented were clearly produced just for sharing on social media, for likes, shares, or even for profit. We saw films of kittens being crushed; fully conscious animals being eaten alive; baby monkeys teased, hit, near-drowned - even buried alive.”

SMACC documented numerous “fake rescue” videos, in which animals are subjected to s