New Report From World Animal Protection Says Cruel, Fake Animal Rescue Videos Are Prevalent On YouTube
A new investigation from the global charity World Animal Protection further exposes the shocking scale of a cruel and worrying craze on YouTube – the rise of videos depicting fake animal rescues involving wildlife. All set-up and inflicted for entertainment.
In these videos, an animal, such as a dog or chicken is filmed to be the prey for a large predator, such as a snake or crocodile. You can hear the terrified cries of the animals as they fear for their lives and try to break free from being trapped in the grips of the predators such as a python. Although the prey animals are eventually rescued, they face visible distress and trauma, and shouldn't have been in such a terrifying situation in the first place.
Animal advocate, comedian Ricky Gervais, has spoken out on the videos, calling for YouTube to take action. He said: "Just when you think you've heard it all, humans think of another way to be cruel to animals. Social media giants like YouTube should be on the front foot when it comes to banning this disgusting content from their platforms."
A recent investigation by Lady Freethinker identified 17 such videos, across six different channels, collectively accumulating over 40 million views, with almost three million subscribers.
In their report Views That Abuse, researchers from World Animal Protection have uncovered horrific findings including: over 180 videos showing fake animal rescues – all published between October 2018 and May 2021, of which, 70 were uploaded in 2021 alone, signifying a worrying upsurge in this cruel type of entertainment. The 50 most viewed fake animal rescue videos were uploaded from 28 different channels, resulting in a total of 13 million subscribers, over 133 million views and half a million "likes".
The investigation found that 47 new fake animal rescue videos have been posted since the end of March 2021, after YouTube publicly pledged to crack down on animal cruelty content.
Due to the popularity and viewing numbers, the content producers will also be making money from advertising, meaning that they are profiting directly from people who watch animals suffer. Along with the animal welfare implications, the investigation also highlights serious conservation concerns associated with this type of entertainment, as endangered and critically endangered species.
World Animal Protection has written to YouTube, calling for them to live up to their promise and act on this issue urgently. Although so far, cries have fallen on deaf ears with YouTube relying on the general public to report cruelty. Regardless, the research showed that many of these videos have been up on the site for months, showing that the current system in place doesn't work.
Ben Williamson, Programs Director for World Animal Protection US said: "There is no doubt that the animals in these videos will have suffered from injuries and severe psychological trauma, just for cheap thrills for viewers at home. We also worry that these videos are becoming more popular, with more variety of species, and the severity of suffering getting worse. Each day that these clips stay online, they rack up more viewers and the more popular this phenomenon becomes. If urgent action isn't taken, we could see a whole surge of copycat content emerge – putting more animals and people at risk."
This research follows on from World Animal Protection's pioneering work with Instagram, that alerted them to the explosive trend of posting wildlife selfies on the site. Due to the charity's work raising awareness of the issue and constructive discussions with Instagram, the platform acted to resolve the situation. Specifically, the charity documented through their report 'A close up on cruelty', that this harmful selfie trend was driving the suffering and exploitation of some of the world's most iconic animals across the globe, such as sloths and monkeys.
At the time this current report was published, some of the fake animal rescue videos had been taken down in response to media attention focused on this issue. However, the vast majority of the content described in this report was still publicly available.
World Animal Protection is calling on YouTube to remove the abusive content that clearly violates its stated community standards and publicly share their plans to proactively prevent cruel content going up in the first place rather than relying on the public to report it. Funds, resources and time need to be channelled to end this cruelty at once.
Photo: Rebecca Campbell, Source: Unsplah.