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Save macaques from cruel social media trends, urges FIAPO and SMACC joint statement

The statement notes that 13 percent of the content features deliberate psychological torture of the macaques, that is, intentionally making them feel fear and distress by scaring, teasing and denying them food.

A press release by the Federation of Indian Animals Protection Organisations (FIAPO) and The Asia for Animals Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC) highlights a new report documenting evidence of content creators openly abusing monkeys on social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube.

The SMACC is composed of twenty animal advocacy organisations that share the aim of stopping the proliferation of animal cruelty content on social media platforms.

The FIAPO is an animal rights organisation that has led various campaigns, including banning the use of dolphins for commercial entertainment and the establishment of the proposed mega-dairy in Andhra Pradesh.

According to the SMACC’s report titled The cruelty you don’t see: The suffering of pet macaques for social media content, macaques are kept as pets and are being physically and psychologically abused for social media content.

Data from research

On the research conducted by the SMACC, the statement emphasises that between September 2021 and March 2023, 1,226 content links from Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube showed macaques kept as pets.

Detailing the data collected from the research, the statement notes that 13 percent of the content features deliberate psychological torture of the macaques, that is, intentionally making them feel fear and distress by scaring, teasing and denying them food.

The statement also specifies that 12 percent of the content showed physically torture of macaques, including by administering beatings, burning them alive and amputating their limbs even to a point of death.

In 60 percent of the links, pet macaques were directly physically abused, the statement reads.

Distressingly, it is pointed out by the statement that such content has been viewed over 12 billion times over social media platforms, primarily through Facebook (60 percent), YouTube (24 percent), and TikTok (13 percent).

Physical and psychological damage

According to the statement, keeping monkeys in households, and dressing them in clothing and diapers causes them discomfort and restricts their natural movements, leading to their physical and psychological damage.

On psychological and emotional damage, the statement notes that the infant macaques that are featured in the content are usually removed from their parents at a very young age and sold in the ‘pet trade’.

Such maternal and social deprivation causes stress and behavioural issues, the statement adds.

On physical damage, it is highlighted by the statement that nutritional deficiencies and unsuitable diets as well as restrictive environments impact the physical health of the macaques.

When pet monkeys reach maturity and are released into the wild, they have very low survival rates, the statement says.

Dangers of social media

In the statement, the SMACC warns that when viewers ‘like’, ‘comment’ and ‘share’ such content, they inadvertently support the abuse of the monkeys.

Through monetisation of their content on social media platforms, the content creators are motivated to create more abusive content.

The statement expresses concerns raised by animal activists about the normalisation of the abuse of macaques through the ease of availability of such content.

According to the statement, it is important for social media companies to tackle the problem, including by strengthening and enforcing their animal-related policies.

In sum, the SMACC calls upon social media platforms to restrict content which shows macaques as pets and to take proactive measures to remove content featuring their abuse.

The SMACC also encourages social media users to not watch or engage with such content, and to instead report the cruelty content to the social media platforms.

Bharati Ramachandran, CEO of the FIAPO, says, “Social media companies have the power to restrict creators that are benefitting from the exploitation and abuse of macaques. 

In fact, macaques kept as pets are suffering by the very nature of being kept as a pet, as they are not a domesticated species. We urge social media companies to introduce key policies to restrict exploitative content creators, moderate content, and educate users on why wild animals such as macaques should not be kept as pets.”

The Leaflet