Eleven billion eight hundred six million six hundred thirty thousand two hundred and five. It is the staggering total of views obtained on the main social networks – Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram – of the eight hundred and forty videos in which “domestic” wild animals are molested (those that live in the midst of nature but have been bought or kidnapped and forced live at home as if they were cats or dogs). And we’re only talking about the first nine months of 2022.
This emerges from new report from the Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition, which contains other alarming data: in 65% of the videos specimens of endangered species are recorded, in another 5% of vulnerable species, in some even species in serious danger. The number of animals abused in front of cameras well exceeds a thousand.
The most targeted are primates, specifically macaques, present in 60% of the videos. These mammals are kept as pets in much of Asia and elsewhere.
In the terrible ranking of inflicted ill-treatment, the first three steps of the podium are occupied by psychological torture, the use of animals as entertainers and physical torture, which slightly exceeds the separation of puppies from their mother.
Judging by the titles of the videos, a large part of the abusers (some of which could be in good faith) believe – or want to give the impression to the search engines of the various social networks – that they are acting for the good of the animals, as a parent would do with a son.
Therefore the beatings would serve to educate the unruly animal; and the “rescues”, which in reality would not be necessary if these animals were not forced to live in a foreign environment such as the domestic one, are presented as gestures of heroism towards naive creatures.
The humans who filmed or are the protagonists of these videos do not realize or do not care about the suffering caused to animals violently removed from their natural habitat and forced to live in conditions that are prohibitive for them. It is estimated that 75% of wild animals bought for pets in the United States die within the first year.
Behind the stratospheric number of views achieved by these videos – the average is over thirteen million – there is also the perverse mechanism that animates social networks. The more polarizing a content is (for better or for worse), the more it will attract extreme reactions (of condemnation or exaltation), the more its diffusion will increase.
The outrage and outrage generated by videos of animal torture unwittingly contribute to their spread far beyond the small circle of sadists who enjoy the pain of other living beings. Or wildlife traffickers, who use videos to increase their traffic (a trend that has increased in these years of pandemic and lockdown).
Then there are many users who watch the videos in total good faith because they are struck by the beauty of the animals, without knowing that they have been removed from their natural habitat.
It has been known for some time that content moderation is the Achilles’ heel of the main social networks. The problem also affects animals; the platforms’ guidelines are vague and many videos depicting abuse or torture can be published without problems, while the process to remove them is often long and cumbersome.
The welfare and in some cases the very survival of wild animals also pass through Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. Individual users just have to report the videos of abuse, in the unfortunate event that they come across one of them, and try as far as possible not to watch them, not to comment on them, not to share them.
Hoping that soon these videos will simply no longer be available.