Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC)
SMACC Public advice
Please explore this page to learn more about animal cruelty on social media platforms. Use the menu on the right hand side to visit the sections.
Frequently asked questions:
What kind of animal cruelty is found on social media?
Unfortunately the internet is host to a wide range of images and videos depicting animal suffering ranging from legal suffering (such as canned hunting) to illegal (such as illegally kept exotic pets) and from unintentional cruelty (such as taking part in wild animal 'selfies') to obvious and intentional cruelty (such as live burial of animals). These images and videos are often allowed to remain online, despite reports. Some such content is even monetised, and can be quite lucrative for both the content creators and the channels hosting the cruelty content.
What can I do to help?
There are many ways you can help. Here are our suggestions:
Be aware: Please visit our home page for our social media cruelty categories and the themes that we have identified, and then be aware of them when using social media. Sometimes animal cruelty is less than obvious, such as an elephant calf bathing in the sea with its trainer, or a slow loris being 'tickled' by a human. Both of these examples involved serious animal suffering behind the scenes.
Report them: Always report the video and encourage others to do the same. Each social media platform has its own report function. If there is no option for animal cruelty then select the closest category which can be applied.
Do not watch them: Do not watch the video. This may seem counterintuitive as you need to see the cruelty before taking action. However, the more views these kind of videos receive, the more they grow in popularity - and potentially, profitability. Often you can see what is contained in the video by the still images, the titles, description or comments before pressing play.
Do not engage: Do not comment on the video. As above this may seem counterintuitive however the more people engage with the videos or channels the more popular they become. It is best not to comment at all and report the video or channel.
DO NOT SHARE: Do not share the video, even if you are doing so to raise awareness of the cruelty or illegality. By sharing these videos you are only promoting them and spreading them further online. Instead, report them, and raise your concerns by sharing with others the things to look out for - or direct people to our SMACC site.
Sign our petitions: We have three ongoing online petitions appealing to media giants YouTube, Facebook and TikTok to ask them to put in place a robust monitoring system for these animal cruelty videos, stop promoting and monetising such videos and remove any cruel content from their platforms. Sign here
Write to the platform: Members of the public should never underestimate the power of the written word. Please help us by voicing your concerns to platforms by writing a letter or sending an email. We have provided some template wording here.
If I watch the videos am I adding to the problem?
Each time the video is watched its number of views increases, and therefore so does the popularity of that video or channel from the platform's perspective. Social media platform's algorithms can mean that the animal cruelty videos are then pushed to the tops of feeds encouraging more people to see them when browsing. It can also mean that the videos gain advertising spaces increasing their prominence to hundreds, sometimes thousands of social media users and the cycle continues.
We acknowledge that the majority of people may watch these videos and disagree with the acts of animal abuse - however, by that point it is often the case that the video has increased in popularity. We advise seeking as much information as possible before deciding whether or not to press play. Examine the video still images, examine other videos uploaded by the user, read the title, description or the comments by other social media users - often this will tell you all you need to know.
Be wary of the emerging trend of fake rescue videos. These videos may seem kind and caring, but in fact animals are purposely put in dangerous situations or sometimes purposely injured so that the filmmakers can appear to the viewers to be 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. Again, examine the users' other videos and if the same animal or type of animal seems to be repeatedly being 'rescued' then do not watch, share or engage with the video. Report it immediately to the platform.
Please see above on how to help.
Are people making these videos making profit from them?
Yes, this is true - some of this content is quite profitable for both its creator and for the platform. It not always the case, and differs between social media platforms. There are users who have made social media their main business. On YouTube, for example, you can make profit via their YouTube Partner Programme.
Users can relatively easily monetise their channels through featuring advertising, having over a certain number of subscribers to their channel or by becoming a premium user when content is watched by over a certain number of people.
A recent report by SMAC Coalition member Lady Freethinker found that these horrifying videos could be worth up to $15 million for the content creators who post them, and up to $12 million in advertising revenue for YouTube, based on an average profit per 1,000 views taken from a Business Insider survey.
Do you rescue these animals?
No. SMACC is a coalition of organisations, working to collate data, advise the public and lobby platforms to stop these animal cruelty videos or channels. Member organisations local to the video creators may take action as individual organisations through their regional authorities or expose the perpetrators via their own means (social media pages, websites, petitions). If you have seen a video depicting animal cruelty please first report the video to the platform and seek assistance from a local NGO by using our coalition network directory.
Supporting animal welfare organisation who are working on these issues in their regions is the best way to end animal suffering.
What happens to the animals in the videos?
Of course no two situations are the same. Some animals are killed or do not survive long following their abuse. Sadly many of them are continually abused by their owners, especially in the cases of the pet trade or when the animal is enduring psychological abuse, or in the case of the fake rescue channels where the animal may be repeatedly injured or put in dangerous or harmful situations for the sake of content creation.
There have been cases where animals have been confiscated from their abusers by local authorities, however we rarely hear of any legal prosecutions following the confiscations.
What is the plan for stopping this suffering?
As mentioned above, the best way to help stop animal suffering is to support animal welfare organisations working on ending animal suffering and by taking the steps outlined in the how to help section.
The Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC) is working hard behind the scenes to collate data and expose the situation to the wider public. Our aim is to provide information to the public to educate them on how to help prevent these abusive videos gain popularity and giving information on what constitutes animal cruelty online. Knowledge is power, so please do share these pages as widely as possible.