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In a shocking revelation, a new report from The Asia for Animals’ Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC) exposes the alarming abuse of pet macaques on social media platforms. This report, titled “The cruelty you don’t see: The suffering of pet macaques for social media content,” highlights the grim reality of how these vulnerable and endangered animals are subjected to physical and psychological torment for the sake of online engagement.
Between September 2021 and March 2023, SMACC uncovered 1,226 content links across Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, all showcasing macaques kept as pets. The content ranged from seemingly “innocent” treatment to horrifying acts of violence, collectively amassing a staggering 12 billion views.
- 13% of the content featured deliberate psychological torture, including scaring, teasing, and denying macaques food, causing fear and distress.
- 12% depicted macaques being physically tortured, with cases of beating, burning alive, amputation of limbs, and prolonged torture leading to death.
- Shockingly, 60% of the links displayed macaques being directly physically abused.
- All macaques featured were likely to experience psychological distress due to their inhumane treatment.
Moreover, the report identifies the top three platforms with the most content featuring macaques as pets as Facebook (60%), YouTube (24%), and TikTok (13%). Alarmingly, over 80% of the macaques subjected to this abuse belong to species listed as “vulnerable” or “endangered” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Social media platforms have become unwitting accomplices in perpetuating this cruelty. Videos showing macaques dressed in clothing and performing human-like actions may seem entertaining to some viewers. However, this treatment, particularly of infant macaques, inflicts long-lasting physical and psychological damage. Such actions cause discomfort, restrict natural movements, and induce unnecessary stress.
Most of the macaques featured in these videos are separated from their parents at an extremely young age, sometimes mere days old, to be sold into the pet trade. This maternal and social deprivation leads to severe psychological and emotional issues, including stress and stereotypical behaviors like rocking, pacing, and overgrooming.
Nutritional deficiencies stemming from unsuitable diets are also common among pet primates, leading to conditions like diabetes. The restrictive environments they are kept in further impact their physical health and can result in heightened frustration and aggression.
SMACC warns that by engaging with this content through likes, comments, and shares, viewers inadvertently Support the abuse. As engagement increases, content creators are motivated to produce more. Some even profit from their content through platform monetization. Worse yet, this normalization of macaque abuse on social media platforms can escalate their mistreatment.
Viewers have witnessed macaques being hit and slapped by their owners, intentionally placed in dangerous situations, or teased and scared to capture their fearful reactions. Some creators have gone as far as filming the sexual abuse of young macaques, portraying these heinous acts as innocent grooming or bathing sessions.
Social media companies must take responsibility for their role in perpetuating this cruelty. While some animal-related policies exist, they are often inadequately enforced. SMACC calls on social media platforms to take proactive measures to restrict content that portrays macaques as pets and to remove content showing their abuse.
Sign this petition to stop the torture of macaque monkeys!
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