West Sussex based charity the RSPCA is calling for better animal welfare education in schools after the number of animal cruelty reports coming from children on Snapchat more than doubled.
In 2015, the UK’s largest and oldest animal welfare charity, which has its headquarters in Southwater, near Horsham, received 27 reports of animal cruelty after parents or their children saw videos on the popular mobile phone app, Snapchat.
By last year, that had increased by 155% to 69 complaints from people who had witnessed animal cruelty on Snapchat.
And so far this year (up to September 30), the charity’s emergency cruelty line has already received 119 complaints - still with a few months to go.
The RSPCA’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) said they fear the social media platform makes the people creating these horrifying videos and images feel ‘invincible and untraceable’ because the post disappears after 10 seconds.
“What’s even more concerning than the 340% increase in reports of videos of animal cruelty on Snapchat in just two years, is the level of cruelty being seen,” an RSPCA SOU intelligence officer - who cannot be named - said.
“While many of these videos shows acts of animal cruelty that are at the lower end of severity - such as teenagers chasing geese or throwing stones at birds - a worrying number of them show serious acts of brutality.
“When you consider that Snapchat is particularly popular with children and young teenagers, it’s particularly troubling that they could easily be witnessing animals being beaten, tortured and even killed in graphic detail.
“Not only are young people seeing these heinous acts but, most of the time, it is also young people who are witnessed in the videos carrying out these sickening incidents or are often the ones who share them.”
Just some of the incidents reported to the RSPCA are:
- A guinea pig thrown down the stairs;
- A tortoise fed drugs;
- A wild rabbit hit with a log and stabbed with a pen;
- A sheep beaten to death with a golf club;
- A goldfish’s eye cut out;
- A puppy thrown into a river;
- A squirrel set on fire;
- A fox cub’s throat slit;
- A cat choked and suffocated;
- Two chickens beaten to death.
“Not only are these savage attacks on defenceless and vulnerable animals, but videos often include youngsters laughing as they inflict the injuries or text layered over the top suggest that they find it entertaining,” the intelligence officer added.
“Because of the way Snapchat works, kids are using the platform to share these videos as they feel invincible and, wrongly, think it’s untraceable. But, if reported to us by children who have seen the videos or by worried parents, we do have tools which enable us to trace those responsible in most cases.”
Almost 30% of Snapchat users (under the age of 25) polled by the RSPCA said footage of animal cruelty and abuse had been shared with them and 60% said what they had seen was serious or extreme.
The RSPCA manages to trace the person responsible and resolve around 80% of all cases reported involving Snapchat videos. In most cases, RSPCA officers - often with police - will visit their schools and speak to their parents.
“We’re not out to prosecute these children but we will act when we are aware of violence against an animal or any form of cruelty,” Dave Allen, head of education and advice at the RSPCA, said.
“We would prefer to educate children to ensure they understand that being cruel or causing unnecessary suffering to an animal is not funny and is wrong.
“The increase in the number of these shocking videos on Snapchat shows that there is a culture of cruelty developing on these social media platforms and it’s important that we work with other agencies to put a stop to that.
“That’s why the RSPCA would like to see animal welfare included as part of the National Curriculum.”