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Action for Primates

Long-tailed macaques, photo by Sarah Kite

Non-human Primates and Online Social Media Cruelty

Monkey abuse on YouTube
Monkey abuse on YouTube

Social media platforms such as YouTube (parent company Google) allow online content that promotes animal abuse and cruelty for 'sport and entertainment' purposes, in particular sickening videos depicting the tormenting and cruel treatment of monkeys. No responsible video-sharing platform should tolerate animal cruelty in the guise of entertainment. Despite their public pronouncements and a policy prohibiting Content where there's infliction of unnecessary suffering or harm deliberately causing an animal distress, YouTube does not effectively oversee their platform.

Submitting a complaint is not straightforward and YouTube has continued to allow shocking footage to remain. By permitting such content on their platform, YouTube is complicit in promoting animal cruelty and abuse, including making it profitable for abusers. By not monitoring and enforcing its own policy, viewers can be encouraged to inflict deliberate acts of cruelty on other animals.

Action for Primates believes that YouTube and other social media platforms must implement and enforce animal cruelty policies and summarily take down all such content. To be more effective, the people responsible for such content must be permanently banned from using such platforms. Further, the people need to be reported to government officials of their country so that applicable animal cruelty laws can be enforced.

A new study published in 2021, has found that YouTube is likely responsible for creating the normalisation of people interacting with captive wildlife, promoting a demand for 'exotic pets' and contributing to an increase in the trade in wildlife and a loss of biodiversity (1). The authors concluded that, As YouTube® itself plays a crucial role in enabling and encouraging public access to this content, they must also accept social responsibility for creating a culture wherein human engagement with threatened exotic wildlife has become acceptable.

Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition

Action for Primates is a member of The Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC), established by Asia for Animals Coalition (AfA). SMACC is playing a key role in coordinating efforts among animal welfare organisations across the world, raising awareness and educating the public.

Mona, rescued long-tailed macaque; photo credit JAAN
Mona, rescued long-tailed macaque
photo credit JAAN

Conviction of YouTuber in Indonesia

The conviction of one YouTuber in Indonesia provides compelling evidence of the extreme nature of the animal cruelty that YouTube has allowed on its platform, as well as a beneficial outcome when relevant government officials in the country where the abuse is taking place are contacted. Three macaques were abused and filmed for 'entertainment' in Jakarta with the videos posted on the YouTube channel Abang Satwa (previously called 'Monkey Raging'). Examples of this person's cruel behaviour towards the macaques included spraying them with jets of water, rubbing obnoxious substances such as glue or chilli onto their food, lighting firecrackers and sparklers to scare them and encouraging the macaques to fight each other by teasing them with food. The person posted these videos with soundtracks and commentary, while asking people to send donations. Following complaints submitted to the Governor of Jakarta by Action for Primates and Jakarta Animal Aid (JAAN), the macaques were confiscated by the Indonesian authorities and relocated to the JAAN rescue centre. The three macaques, called Boris, Mona and Boim, have started their new life free from the torment and cruelty to which they were being subjected daily.

The abuser, Rian Mardiansyah, was charged by the Jakarta authorities, convicted and sentenced to a fine and 15 days imprisonment for behaviour relating to exploitation and violence against monkeys. This conviction should send an important message and help to deter other people from mistreating non-human primates and other animals. The conviction and confiscation also demonstrate the importance of writing letters and sending E-mail to those in authority who have the ability to make change.

What you can do to help stop online social media cruelty:

Submitting a report to YouTube, as of 2021-05-24:

Cited information:

  1. Moloney, Georgia Kate; Tuke, Jonathan; Dal Grande, Eleonora; Nielsen, Torben and Chaber, Anne-Lise. 2021-04-13. "Is YouTube promoting the exotic pet trade? Analysis of the global public perception of popular YouTube videos featuring threatened exotic animals" PLoS One 16(4):e0235451.