Nonprofits campaigning to end animal cruelty online welcomed the passing of the UK Online Safety Bill, which includes measures that will tackle online content that encourages or facilitates animal torture. Animal torture content is classified as a priority offense, raising it to the same class as other types of content like child sexual abuse, threats to kill, and revenge pornography. Social media companies will be required to remove such content or face stiff fines. The legislation also will cover animal abuse that takes place outside the UK but which is accessible by users in the UK, part of a zero-tolerance approach.
Lady Freethinker (LFT) and UK-based Action for Primates (AfP) have worked tirelessly with other groups to end the horrifying animal cruelty content that continues to be widely available on social media platforms: publishing reports and making submissions, communicating directly with social media platforms, and pushing for animal cruelty content to be brought within the scope of the UK Online Safety Bill.
In 2021, LFT and AfP also carried out an investigation that revealed the existence of a private online monkey torture group consisting of individuals mainly based in the US and UK who were ordering and paying for videos to be made that depicted the torturing and killing of baby monkeys in Indonesia. Evidence was handed over to law enforcement, and several arrests have since followed. The extreme cruelty inflicted included baby monkeys who were set alight, had parts of their bodies sliced off, and beaten viciously and violently killed.
This revelation led to the BBC carrying out its own investigation into the sadistic world of the monkey torture gangs, resulting in the powerful and disturbing documentary, “The Monkey Haters,” cited by the UK Government as an example of the way in which social media can be used to facilitate animal torture. Lady Freethinker and Action for Primates, together with Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), also provided information and intelligence to the BBC journalists for this investigation and documentary.
Several monkeys in Indonesia were rescued during the BBC investigation and were relocated to a sanctuary run by JAAN, where they received care and treatment. They are currently being rehabilitated and held until an eventual release into the wild.
The Online Safety Bill has now passed its final Parliamentary debate and is ready to be signed into law by King Charles.
“We welcome this important legislation, which will not only boost protection for animals, but also Internet users,” said LFT President and Founder Nina Jackel. “We hope that this lifesaving act will pave the way for similar regulations to be introduced in the United States, where content showing animal torture continues to spread on Facebook and other social media sites.”
AfP Co-Founder Sarah Kite stated, “This law marks a turning point in ridding social media of the horrifying and disturbing content involving the torture and killing of animals, including baby monkeys, for online ‘entertainment.’ Self-regulation by social media companies has been an abject failure. The companies must be held to account for allowing the promotion and facilitation of animal torture on their platforms.”
The groups hope that similar legislation will be introduced in the United States and around the world and are also urging social media platforms like Facebook to do more to prevent videos showing animals being tortured and killed from spreading on their platforms. They have launched a petition to Facebook with more than 56,000 signatures, available here.