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SMACC

Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC)

 

Welcome to the Asia for Animals Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC).  

In May 2020 the AfA coalition formed this working group with the aim of bringing organisations together to try to get a handle on the situation of animal cruelty videos being promoted, shared and often monetised on social media platforms. The group was formed as a result of the many enquiries we, and many network orgs, receive from the public regarding animal cruelty videos and the lack of successful campaigns by organisations working in silo to stop this issue.

 

This group is a collaboration by various members of the Asia for Animals Coalition network.

Please explore our site:

 

Definitions of animal cruelty content

 

SMACC defines animal cruelty as a range of human behaviours, performed intentionally or unintentionally, that cause animals harm or suffering which may be  immediate or long-term, physical or psychological. We propose that since cruelty is not always obvious, input from specialists familiar with specific species, contexts or behaviours should be valued.

 

Animal cruelty content depicts anything that has been posted on a social media platform by an individual, organization, or business, that depicts animal cruelty or suffering for any reason apart from valid campaigning, journalistic or educational purposes. While it is true that suffering is a part of life and that it sometimes serves an important purpose, cruelty content has no discernible meaningful purpose and we consider it to be a barbaric form of entertainment.

Four Categories

 

Cruelty content can be categorized as follows:

CATEGORIES

OBVIOUS AND INTENTIONAL CRUELTY

a clear violation of platform's existing policies

AMBIGUOUS AND INTENTIONAL CRUELTY

a possible violation of platform's existing policies

OBVIOUS AND UNINTENTIONAL CRUELTY

a possible violation of platform's existing policies

AMBIGUOUS AND UNINTENTIONAL CRUELTY

not a violation of platform's existing policies - promotes cruel and illegal activity behind the scenes (pet trade/capture)

EXAMPLES

burying a live baby monkey;
intentionally setting dogs on live kitten;
burning live animals

teasing a caged monkey;
filming a feral kitten being devoured by street dogs;
animal performances/wild animals as entertainers;
fake/staged rescues

making a macaque "smile", which may be a genuine misinterpretation of a fear/stress behaviour

selfies with wild animals;
keeping baby macaque as pet

Cruelty content themes

 

Our research has identified the following recurring themes in animal cruelty videos:

  • Animals as entertainers

  • Cruelty content used for legitimate campaigning or educational purposes

  • Deliberate animal torture (mental)

  • Deliberate animal torture (physical)

  • Eating live animals

  • Fake outrage

  • Fake rescue

  • Hunting

  • Illegal keeping or sale

  • Other

  • Prolonging death

  • Teasing

  • Unintentional abuse

  • Wild animals as pets

THEMES
WHY IS THIS CRUEL?

eg. Intentional physical torture

Fake outrage
Prolonging death

Gratuitous enjoyment of prolonged suffering;
Prolonging the pain of an animal who needs to be euthanised

 
Animals as entertainers

eg. A macaque riding a bike on the streets;
Animals doing tricks and being filmed

The inherent biological needs of most wild animals cannot be met when they are held captive, trained, and used as performers, which results in poor welfare, regardless of whether cruel training methods are used (which they often are). Images of wild animals in human environments, dressed in human clothing and/or interacting with humans perpetuates the idea that they can thrive under such conditions, which perpetuates the trade in wild animals as pets and further cruelty. This is the case whether such use and such performances are legal or illegal.

 
Cruelty content used for legitimate campaigning or educational purposes

Any of the themes, but clearly used for legitimate campaigning purposes. Such posts should not link to the original perpetrator (thus increasing their reach and profitability)

This is content that is being used, often by animal welfare organisations, to highlight and educate animal cruelty to the public. Often videos such as these are used in campaigns or in fundraising efforts. The content being highlighted may be cruel, but is being used to work towards an end to such cruelty. Animal welfare organisations have differing views on the acceptability of using cruelty footage in this way.

 

Intentionally causing psychological distress is a classic example of cruelty.

Deliberate animal torture (mental)

eg. Intentional psychological torture or torment

Deliberate animal torture (physical)

Intentionally causing physical pain is a classic example of cruelty.

Eating live animals

Preparing and consuming a live animal or animals

Several YouTube channels regularly feature people eating live marine animals.

 

Similar to the theme of Fake rescue where animals are shown in dangerous situations with the video claiming 'outrage' at the act taking place, however, the video is often created or re-shared by the perpetrators or in support of the perpetrators of the animal abuse.

eg. Staged scenes of an animals put into distressing situations so the channel/video can claim outrage.

 
Fake rescue

eg. Staged "rescue" scenes;
animals put into distressing situations for the sake of a rescue narrative

Animals are purposely put in dangerous situations or sometimes purposely being injured so that the filmmakers can appear to the viewers that they are rescuing them from the situation or helping them with their injuries. Oftentimes these animals are infants (macaque babies, kittens, puppies) who may have been removed from their mothers or family groups as they make easy targets as they are vulnerable.

 
Hunting

Legal and considered to be culturally acceptable in some places, often depending on who is hunting and what animals they are hunting

Animals, either in the wild are hunted and killed illegally or legally, or, animals kept in captivity - such as in game reserves where often they are bred specifically for the purpose of allowing humans to hunt and kill them for sport.

 

Apart from violating the law, illegal keeping or sale of animals often entails the same cruelty described above under "exotic pets."

Illegal keeping or sale

For example, baby macaques for sale in areas where this is prohibited (including the majority of habitat countries)

 

Videos that show humans witnessing an animal in severe suffering or distress and taking no action to alleviate the suffering. This theme can overlap with other themes such as abusive situations where the likelihood is very high that the animal will eventually die as a result of the situation it is being filmed in. Deliberately prolonging death is a classic example of cruelty.

 

Causing an animal clear stress through teasing;
the person often does not know the degree to which they are harming the animal

What may be intended as "lighthearted teasing" can cause serious distress in captive animals, especially when they depend on humans and/or lack a means of escape.

Teasing
 
Unintentional abuse

Treating pet monkey like a child; dressing them in clothing, applying makeup, watching them "smile", etc

See also "exotic pets." Often in this situation the keeper/owner of the animal, through lack of knowledge, is not aware they are abusing the animal and under the impression they are providing 'love' when in fact, the animal is suffering from physical or psychological abuse.

 
Wild animals as pets

The inappropriate keeping and/or handling of wild animals as pets, which is detrimental to their welfare. The inherent cruelty is usually not intentional or recognised

It is impossible for the inherent biological needs of most wild animals to be met when they are kept as people's pets. Every species of animal has evolved to be able to thrive in a specific kind of social and physical environment. For example, macaques are hard-wired to live in large and complex social groups with others of their own kind, to climb, to range, and to eat specific foods. Despite the best intentions on the part of an animal's keeper, these conditions cannot be recreated in the context of pet-keeping - and being treated "as a member of the family" cannot make up for it. Poor welfare often goes unrecognised when pet owners are unaware of a species' natural needs, behaviours and ways of communicating.

Specific abuses

 

Within the themes we have identified specific abuses, all of which have seen occurring in social media animal cruelty content videos on multiple occasions.

  • beating to death / beating / kicking / punching

  • burning / setting alight

  • crushing with shoe / crushing

  • dismembering / removing limbs / eyes / other

  • dragging animal / behind a vehicle or otherwise

  • drowning / partial drowning / threat of drowning

  • electric shock

  • false husbandry / conservation information

  • feeding spicy food / inappropriate food

  • fighting animals / encouraging fighting

  • giving animal alcohol / drugs

  • harmful chemicals ingested / sprayed on animal / animal made to use

  • hunting / killing with knives

  • hunting / trapping

  • hunting other

  • hunting with bows or spears

  • hunting with dogs

  • hunting with guns

  • hunting with hawks or other raptors

  • inappropriate handling or environment 

  • injury treatment either unqualified or after intentional wounding

  • live burial / partial or full

  • mutilating / maiming / cutting

  • over breeding

  • poor husbandry / dirt cage / own faeces

  • rough handling

  • scaring with another animal / predator

  • scaring with masks / props

  • separating infants / killing of parent(s)

  • sexual abuse from human or on itself

  • social isolation

  • spraying with water / hose

  • starving / making animal wait for food unnecessarily

 

SMAC Coalition members