Facebook, TikTok and YouTube profit from animal cruelty, new report says

Monkey looks extremely scared as a snake attacks him
Photo of animal cruelty video content via AfA SMACC’s report

The Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC) released a report after analyzing videos that promoted animal cruelty on the social media platforms TikTok, YouTube and Facebook for 13 months.

“Perhaps the most jaw-dropping revelation is that collectively, the approximately 54800 individual links that we have documented had been viewed 5,347,809,262 times at the time of writing,” the report said.

“This staggering number has come at extreme cost to the animals involved – and the platforms hosting such content have profited,” it added. “Our data solidly confirm that online animal cruelty content is a large-scale, global problem.”

In 2020, the Asia for Animals (AfA) Coalition network formed SMACC to address the hundreds of enquiries its member organizations have received. 

Emails and calls have described appalling animal abuse, including live animal burials, the abuse of companion animals, setting animals on fire and most recent fake rescue videos – all freely published on social media.

Some key organizations in SMACC include Action for Primates, AnimalsAsia Foundation, Humane Society International, PETA Asia, and World Animal Protection.

According to SMACC’s report, videos found on social media platforms showed animals being drowned, having their limbs broken, and even mothers being killed and having their babies taken away from them. 

The report mentioned that “animals have become voiceless victims of the scramble for clicks and advertising dollars as videos promoting, encouraging and profiting from their abuse run rampant”. 

Fake animal rescue videos
The report quoted Nick Stewart, Global Head of Wildlife Campaigns of World Animal Protection, who said: “Wild animals are not props, playthings or entertainers, they are sentient beings with a right to live.”

“Our recent investigation has further exposed the shocking scale of fake animal rescue videos emerging on YouTube, showing animals placed in terrifying situations, visibly distressed and traumatized,” Stewart said. 

“It’s cruelty at its worst all set up for ‘entertainment’, misleading many viewers and causing untold suffering to animals. Social media giants, like YouTube, with billions of followers, have a clear responsibility to not give animal abuse an audience,” he added. 

To date, animal welfare organizations have had very little success tackling animal cruelty videos published on YouTube, Facebook and TikTok.

The coalition added that animal welfare organizations are unable to help individual animals involved in videos of animal abuse, often due to a lack of information about the time or location. 

At the same time, enormous resources – beyond the means of any single organization – would be needed to tackle the sheer volume of cruelty content available on these platforms. 

SMACC also highlighted that the issue has been unaddressed on these platforms. In its report, SMACC appealed to YouTube, Facebook and TikTok “to lead by example and take firm action to remove cruelty content once and for all”.

They urged social media platforms to share their vision of “a responsible and kinder world where such atrocities do not feature on social media or in real life”.

It also appealed to social media users to not watch, share or engage with such content.

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