Reports of animal abuse on social media has more than doubled in the last year
The RSPCA has seen the number of reports about animal cruelty posted on social media almost double from the previous year.
The charity's figures, released today, show there were 756 reports of animal abuse on social media last year (2021) compared to 431 in 2020 and 157 in 2019.
The RSPCA logged an average of 63 reports of cruelty on social media a month last year, compared to just 35 a month during the previous year.
Dermot Murphy, Chief Inspectorate Officer for the RSPCA, said:
It's very worrying that we're seeing more reports of animal abuse being posted on social media for likes and kudos.
These videos are often accompanied by laughing emojis or silly comments, it's normalising - and even making light of - animal cruelty.
It's worrying that people who wouldn't ordinarily see animal cruelty are being exposed to it online. Not only could it encourage other people to do the same but it creates a society that has become de-sensitised to some of the most horrific acts of cruelty to animals which is a backward step for us as a nation of animal lovers.
The RSPCA has released its groundbreaking inaugural report in partnership with the Scottish SPCA - the Animal Kindness Index - which looks at the nation's attitude towards animals.
The report revealed that 22% of people had witnessed animal cruelty online in the last 12 months which equates to a whopping 11.5 million people in the UK.
On social media, almost half have seen abuse on Facebook (46%) followed by YouTube and Twitter (20%), 11% on TikTok, 10% on Instagram, 5% on Reddit, 4% on WhatsApp and 2% on Snapchat.
Of the reports made to the RSPCA, 62% were posted on Facebook and 20% posted on Instagram with 3.2% posted on Snapchat.
The RSPCA and Scottish SPCA have also been calling on the Government to include animal welfare as part of the Online Safety Bill. The Bill aims to increase safety and tackle illegal content online. The Government is yet to include animal cruelty content under the scope of the Bill despite figures showing the high numbers of people witnessing this cruelty online.
The charity's special operations unit works to trace these social media videos and find out who's responsible to bring them to justice.
Recent investigations have included:
- The case of a high-profile footballer filmed kicking and slapping his cat was uploaded to Snapchat. Two men were subsequently sentenced.
- A video posted on Snapchat showed a man chasing a cat around a house, kicking and slapping him. The RSPCA launched an investigation in response and the two cats were subsequently taken into care for rehoming.
- A video circulated on Twitter of a man seen kicking a cat on a lead. The RSPCA investigated after a cyclist captured the incident on their head camera.
- The RSPCA investigated after a teenager allegedly threw a gosling at their parents. This incident was being filmed on a mobile phone to upload to social media. The young chick suffered a leg injury and was left struggling to swim. The little gosling was thankfully rescued by the RSPCA and rehabilitated at a nearby wildlife hospital.
Tess Macpherson-Woods, RSPCA's Social Media Manager, said:
Managing the RSPCA's social media accounts is both extremely rewarding and heartbreaking. We're sent an awful lot of upsetting and graphic content, but only our national cruelty line can task jobs to inspectors, so all we can do is provide advice and encourage people to call them.
We've managed to track down animal abusers by sharing appeals for information on social media which is just the best feeling.
Whilst a poor animal has suffered, knowing you're part of a team that will do its best to rescue, rehabilitate and seek justice for them makes the upsetting part of the job worthwhile.
The RSPCA receives around 90,000 calls to its cruelty line every month and investigates 6,000 reports of deliberate animal cruelty, including animal fighting and hunting. In the summer calls rise to 134,000 a month - three every minute and reports of cruelty soar to 7,600 each month - a heartbreaking 245 every day.