Wild animals dressed up and used as pets by influencers who abuse them for likes

Wild animals are suffering at the hands of influencers who are using them as pets in a bid to gain likes, experts have warned.

A growing trend has seen creators mask animal abuse as "cute" unboxing videos, forced animal dress up and fake rescue content, according to the Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC).

Over the past year, an investigation recorded 860 videos from platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram which saw creatures put in dangerous situations.

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According to the group of 13 animal welfare advocates, so-called influencers film their reactions, risking drowning, suffocation or injury.

Investigators found that animals were used for "engaging" content which included putting tigers on leads and making lion cubs wear nappies.

In more severe cases, monkeys were sexually abused and forced to suck human nipples, whilst others were attacked by their owners to supposedly enforce "discipline."

The collation found at least 97 different species were being housed inside homes such as bears, critically endangered orangutans, bush babies and more.

SMACC Lead Coordinator Nicola O’Brien said: "We have also found a really worrying and rising trend in videos of monkeys, usually, babies, who appear on the verge of death, and their owners are administering CPR and other 'treatments' to them."

Data collected from 50 volunteers has revealed that Meta (Facebook and Instagram) and YouTube seemed to be the platforms with the highest number of videos depicting wild animals as pets.

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The volunteers reported the footage to the platforms, however, none were taken down by the time data was analysed by SMCC on October 22.

Organisation AnimalsAsia, which is a part of the research group, highlighted the harsh treatment being carried out in the name of influencers.

Dave Neale, Animal Welfare Director, Animals Asia, said: "Social platforms should ban people from posting any content if they are found to be in breach of the regulations and they should share details of offences and offenders with other social platforms to prevent individuals from starting up new accounts elsewhere.

"They should also share details with law enforcement officials if posts breach animal protection and/or wildlife trade laws and regulations."

Founder Jill Robinson said: “As a result of our work, we have seen many such facilities shut down or end their abusive practices.

"However, the internet still remains the largest platform for both spreading cruelty and profiting from it too.

"Through investigation of and pressure on these platforms, we will continue to raise awareness of this barbaric exploitation.

"In addition, as individual users, each of us is responsible for reporting this kind of content and calling out the social media giants to take action."

SMACC fears the content is normalising the use of wild species as pets which has caused an increase in their demand.

The spokesperson for Meta, Jen Ridings, said the company will look over the content and take action against the ones which violate guidelines.

The company's current policies for forbidden violent and graphic content include explicit physical harm or abuse done to animals.

However, Meta does not have any policies regarding content showing wild animals as pets.

YouTube spokesperson Jack Malon told the Daily Star: "Our policies prohibit content featuring deliberate physical suffering or harm to animals.

"While none of the YouTube videos cited in the report violates our policies, we remain committed to removing any content that violates our Community Guidelines."

TikTok has been contacted for comment.

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