The Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC) has today released a new report, the first in a series of theme-specific exposés of the horrific world of online animal cruelty content, showing a disturbing trend in ‘teasing as torture’ animal cruelty videos. These videos are shared across social media, and platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Youtube are not doing enough to remove them, thus giving offenders essentially a free rein to promote and perpetuate animal cruelty.
The report, Teasing as Torture, documents how between February and May 2022 alone, SMACC recorded almost 200 individual links to videos containing teasing content on Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. 69% of the videos featured macaque monkeys as the most popular victims of teasing abuse.
The videos showed many forms of teasing, some including physical abuse and all causing psychological distress to the animals. In one shocking video, a rat was attached to a cat’s leg with string as their captors filmed, showing both animals in extreme distress followed by the rat being killed.
In others, starving animals could be seen being taunted with food that was placed just outside their reach or given food they could not physically lift to their mouths. Crying baby monkeys were filmed being ignored, laughed at, pushed around, or otherwise taunted. Vulnerable infant wild animals were teased with comforting teddies or blankets as they were left screaming in open spaces. There are videos of people spraying lemon juice or scaring animals by setting off firecrackers by them while they’re sleeping or by wearing terrifying masks.
In a series of disturbing videos, baby macaques were dressed in restrictive clothing similar to a straitjacket, making them unable to walk on all four legs and forcing them to walk on their back legs, jump or crawl, causing them to fall on their faces. Their captors teased them repeatedly by offering food or comforts that the monkeys could not grasp or reach without the use of all of their limbs.
These types of acts fall under the definition of psychological torture - which is not prohibited explicitly or implicitly by any of the social media platforms’ policies.
KEY STATS TOTAL VIDEO LINKS: 195
TOP THREE ANIMALS FEATURED:
MACAQUES (various species) 148
DOGS AND CATS 32
Other primates (various species) 14
Including: Orangutans pygmaeus spp. (Critically endangered), Chimpanzees pan troglodytes spp. (Endangered), Slow Lorises nycticebus spp. (Critically endangered, Gibbons hoolock spp. (Endangered).
MOST RECORDED SPECIFIC ABUSES: Keeping a wild animal as a pet and its implications (23%), Withholding food (18%), Scaring with a mask or prop (18%).
MOST COMMON VIDEO TITLE KEYWORDS: Monkey, Baby, Prank, Mom, funny, Fake, Milk, Cry, Angry.
The videos appear to be filmed in a number of different countries and due to the open nature of social media, are consumed globally. However, a lot of the content featuring wild animals - especially macaques - kept as pets, and the types of abuses they face as a result has been filmed in Asia, and distributed globally. SMACC states that this is why it is so important that social media platforms take action, by removing these videos directly.
These findings follow up on a damning report released by SMACC in 2021, which exposed social media platforms for allowing animal cruelty content to flourish on their sites. Since then, the platforms, with billions of budget and plentiful resources - both human and technological - have seemingly taken little action to address this abuse.
SMACC has yet to receive any response from all but one company and the coalition states that even securing a dialogue with the platforms has been extremely difficult.
Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, has been in conversation with the coalition on how the company can tackle and prevent this type of content appearing on their platforms. SMACC aims to provide advice on how to identify cruelty footage using its expert contacts in animal welfare. SMACC is hopeful that the ongoing negotiation, while its pace is slow at times, will lead to concrete and swift action by Meta, to help animals who are still being used in cruelty content.
SMACC is urging all social media platforms where cruelty content is shared to work with them and their experts to help find solutions to this animal cruelty. This new Teasing as Torture report is the first in a series of Spotlight Reports honing in on the horror of the themes being popularized by social media platforms and to put more pressure on platforms to take action.
SMACC MEMBER COMMENTS
Dave Neale, Animal Welfare Director, Animals Asia:
"Social media platforms and the content they allow to be publicized, greatly influences the attitudes and behaviours of millions of consumers. Wielding so much influence comes with great responsibility, platforms must ensure they are no longer complicit in the promotion of abusive acts towards animals, and implement effective monitoring measures to remove such content immediately".
Bharati Ramachandran, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO):
"The findings of SMACC's Teasing as Torture report on animal cruelty online are harrowing. The animals go through unimaginable pain, and physical and psychological torture, while the vast majority of humans will scroll away.
Social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook are filled with millions of videos where "light-hearted teasing" of animals is perceived as "fun" or "harmless," thereby normalizing the mistreatment of animals for likes, shares and comments, which further encourages the perpetrators.
We need to work together with social media platforms to monitor and bring about legal action against perpetrators of animal cruelty online."
Jackie Bennett, Program Director-Africa and Asia, Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries:
"The teasing depicted in these videos is not harmless, or fun. Sadly, the continued display and sharing of images like these will continue to send a message that animals are not sentient beings that feel fear and pain, and that they can be exploited for our entertainment and commercial gain. It is time to take action to change these behaviors, and the continued harm that they cause, and we call on social media platforms to lead the way."
Adam Parascandola, Animal Protection and Crisis Response, Humane Society International:
“There is nothing fun, entertaining or harmless about a defenseless animal being forced to endure repetitive psychological abuse through teasing for social media views, likes and shares. The viral nature of social media even perpetuates and escalates this cruelty— the more attention a video receives, the more likely its creators will produce similar and often increasingly torturous content. It is way past time for social media companies to stop enabling and profiting from animal abuse and instead take a stand against this cruelty. We urge all social media platforms to work with the SMACC coalition to seek expert advice when establishing policies and regulating procedures that have the power to change the fate of so many animals silently suffering around the world."
Alan Knight, President, International Animal Rescue:
“Social media giants can’t keep turning a blind eye to posts of the sadistic abuse of animals being shown on their platforms. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, a vast global audience is perpetuating the cruelty by viewing, liking and sharing these videos and it has to stop!
Using teasing as a form of torture as described in this report is absolutely sickening and most people would find the videos unbearable to watch. It is unacceptable for the likes of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube to abdicate their responsibility on this issue. Animals are being deliberately tortured and even killed for human entertainment and those who can do something to stop it have a moral duty to do so, sooner rather than later.”
Nina Jackel, Founder and President, Lady Freethinker:
"Social media videos that present animal suffering as "harmless" entertainment are anything but. We can and must do better. It's crucial that the public become more aware of the hidden abuse often lurking behind seemingly "cute" content and refuse to watch, share or comment on such posts. Additionally, social media companies must take steps to ensure that no animals are harmed for views on their platforms."
Iris Ho, Head of Campaigns and Policy, Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA):
"The shocking revelation of teasing as torture represents a stinging call to action for all social media companies. They cannot continue to enable this abuse, as it fosters a climate where animals are seen as props in sadistic amusements. The work of SMACC to document the scope of this crisis is a vital service to all who love animals and care for their welfare. PASA is proud to be part of this coalition. "
VETERINARY EXPERT QUOTES
Shaun Thomson, VBRC Senior Veterinary Surgeon, Animals Asia:
"The tactics being used on these animals induce suffering. I have grave concerns for the animals involved in these videos. Will the views these tortured animals get ensure repeat suffering? Will the views cause the degree of suffering to escalate? Will the objects used to tease these animals cause ever-increasing harm, mentally and physically, as the tormentors chase more views? And lastly, will these actions cause the animals death when their response causes harm to themselves or as a reaction to a human?
Will I have to take the life of someone's pet because they didn't act responsibly in the name of entertainment?"
Nedim C Buyukmihci, V.M.D., Co-founder & Veterinary Advisor, Action for Primates; Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine:
''The disturbing findings of the Teasing as Torture report show that, rather than being harmless, teasing is a form of torture for non-human animals, who cannot understand or know the intentions of the perpetrator. To the teaser, it may just seem like 'fun', but to the non-human animal involved, it may be perceived as a threat against their lives, resulting in terror and distress. Regardless of intent, such treatment of non-human animals constitutes cruelty. The situation is made even worse when it is filmed as 'entertainment' and posted on social media because it normalises such abhorrent treatment and can encourage others to do likewise.
I urge social media companies to recognise this teasing for what it is - abuse and torture - and to take the responsible and moral path to prevent such content from appearing on their platforms.''