Social media content depicting animal cruelty and suffering can be readily found across social media platforms. Free of borders, content can be shared and viewed worldwide, gaining popularity through likes and engagements.
Animal protection organizations are often inundated with reports from concerned members of the public, highlighting horrific and often illegal treatment of animals in videos, many promoted as ‘funny’. In response, the Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC) was created, encompassing 11 organizations trying to tackle this severe animal abuse.
What is clear from the work of SMACC and its members to end this cruelty is that animals will continue to suffer unless social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook (owned by Meta), YouTube and TikTok take active and enforceable steps to prevent cruelty content from being posted on their platforms.
Many of the individuals posting such content can even make money from the gross abuses they depict, from adverts placed in the videos, in turn making money for the social media platforms on which they post. Online animal cruelty content is a large-scale, global problem, one which social media platforms can have significant influence.
Yet, in response to irrefutable evidence of the proliferation of such content on their platforms, these companies repeatedly and fervently state that they do not allow such content. They quote with confidence how “we enforce our policies” (YouTube), “remove it when we find it” (Meta), and they “will take action against any content or accounts that violate these rules” (TikTok).
In reality, cruelty which goes against their policies is thriving. SMACC has found videos of kittens being crushed or set on fire; fully conscious animals being eaten alive; baby monkeys being teased, hit, near-drowned, some even buried alive. All of these atrocities have been found on these platforms.
Some platforms even choose to place the responsibility for tackling this issue at the foot of animal protection organizations. Social media giants have requested for these organizations to alert them about content which breaches their own policies, so they can act upon it. This is an unrealistic and frankly unfair demand.