Campaign: Stop animal suffering in social networks

We as Welttierschutzgesellschaft (WTG) are convinced that it is also the responsibility of social networks and their users to promote a respectful coexistence between animals and humans. With our campaign, we want to bring about an end to the portrayal of animal suffering on social networks in Germany. By means of a petition, we are calling on the operators to comprehensively supplement their community standards with the topic of animal suffering.

At the same time, we are campaigning for the creation of a legal basis in Germany that includes the prohibition of animal suffering in the digital space and thus obliges the social networks to act. By providing the relevant information, we also want to guide users to a responsible approach to content involving animal suffering.

They are acts of serious cruelty to animals, the mere idea of which is hard to bear - but on social networks, such images and videos spread among millions of users within seconds.

In 2019, for example, a video circulated on YouTube in which a man threw a dog into a ravine - commenting that he was "doing this with stray dogs which follow him". That same year, a student drowned three cats and posted the video thereof on Snapchat under the title "Drowning kittens." Another user posted a video on TikTok of her cat fighting for its life trapped in a microwave that was switched on. A photo on Facebook showed a dog - its muzzle tied up with tape - with the caption, "This is what happens when you don't shut up." In addition, unrestricted footage of bloody dog fights, in which the animals die in severe agony, spreads regularly.

Formats like #Challenges further exacerbate the problem: The core of a Challenge is to film oneself performing an action and to encourage other users to imitate it. With a desire for high viewer numbers, users are trying to gain more and more attention through extreme content. In spring 2020, for example, countless videos circulated on various social networks in which users cruelly tortured and killed mice. Since 2019, the "Animal Crush" challenge has been active, in which participants film themselves trampling live animals to death. While it began with the trampling of insects, the challenge most recently reached its sad climax in a series of widespread videos in which rabbits, kittens, and puppies were trampled to death.

We deliberately decided against depicting these examples so as not to further increase their reach. As part of the campaign, we will primarily work with symbolic images and will only use examples of animal suffering as a means of illustration if it is absolutely necessary in order to raise awareness of the abuse.

The networks provide a platform for animal cruelty

Despite the large amount of animal cruelty content on their platforms, several social networks intervene far too late or not at all, while others only act in particularly severe cases. As a result, they allow millions of users worldwide - even in German-speaking countries - to have unrestricted access to images and videos of violent attacks on animals.

The networks do not remove this content, because it does not contradict the individual community standards that users must agree to comply with when they register and create their profiles. While some networks explicitly state the prohibition of sharing content that glorifies violence or sadism, this often does not apply to animal suffering. In this way, they not only provide a platform for animal cruelty, but also enable other users to save and disseminate this content and perhaps even be encouraged to imitate the acts.

In addition, the networks play a significant role in helping users become accustomed to the portrayal of animal suffering, which may result in animal suffering becoming normalized. If the abuse or mistreatment of animals becomes more socially acceptable, this may also lead to a significant decrease in the recognition and consequently the reporting of animal suffering. This is an obvious threat to animals and their protection worldwide.

We as Welttierschutzgesellschaft call on social networks to stop the display of animal suffering!

It is imperative that social networks consistently check whether the animal suffering depicted fulfils documentary or informative purposes in terms of raising awareness of grievances (as used by organisations and the media). If the appropriate context is not given, the content must be deleted irrevocably.

We therefore call on the social networks to,

  • comprehensively add the topic of animal suffering to their community standards, which users have to commit to when registering and creating a profile, and
  • to check this consistently. In the event of violations, they must ensure that no further dissemination of the content - by others and the creator - is possible.

Please sign

We call on social networks to stop the display of animal suffering! Sign our petition and support our campaign.

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The legal framework is lacking

At least in Germany, they should also be obliged to do so on a legal level. However, because the German government has so far failed to pass legislation for this, we will also be campaigning politically to ban the depiction of animal cruelty in the German digital space.

Many users unintentionally give animal suffering greater reach

The publicity surrounding the examples of the worst animal suffering mentioned above also makes it clear that there is still a lack of awareness among users of social networks of how to deal with the content responsibly. Many share the content - albeit with a negative comment - among their contacts. In this way, they unintentionally help the animal suffering depicted to achieve greater reach.

As part of an information campaign, we want to help users learn not to react publicly to such content in the future and instead consistently report it to the moderators of the networks (i.e. teams that check compliance with the community standards of the respective network). By being active in this way, users can hold networks accountable to their responsibilities and ban animal suffering from their platforms. They thereby help to stop the portrayal of animal suffering on social networks.

Dear animal lovers, please accompany our plans: Sign the petition and share it with your circle of acquaintances. Also, every donation helps us to implement the campaign work. Thank you very much!

Support our work!

We aim at improving the situation for animals in long term i. e. by providing veterinary care, by supporting animal sanctuaries and through our educational work. Every single donation helps!

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FAQ - the most important questions about the campaign

What are social networks?

The basic idea behind all social networks is to connect users from all over the world on the platform and offer them the opportunity to share content with each other within seconds. Depending on the network, the focus is on the exchange of texts, images or videos.

What social networks are there?

In addition to Facebook, which owns the social networks Facebook (32 million active users in Germany) and Instagram (25 million users in Germany) as well as the instant messaging service WhatsApp (58 million users in Germany), the video portal YouTube (28 million daily users in Germany) and the short message service Twitter (10 million users in Germany) are the most widely used social networks in Germany. These are followed by the messenger service Telegram (7.8 million users in Germany) as well as Snapchat (9 million users in Germany) and TikTok (5.5 million users in Germany), all of which enjoy an increasingly large number of users in Germany. Other social networks such as LinkedIn (14 million users in Germany) and Xing (15.5 million users in Germany) focus on professional and career-related contacts between job seekers and companies.

Additionally, the virtual pin board Pinterest (4 million users per month in Germany) and the streaming platform Twitch.tv (3.6 million users per month in Germany) are becoming increasingly relevant in the German-speaking world. The image platform Flickr (400,000 monthly users in Germany), the video portal Vimeo (70 million members worldwide) and the blogger platform Tumblr (128,000 daily users) also have growing user numbers. Likewise, reddit.com, a social news aggregator with around 12 million users in Germany, and, since 2021, the audio-based social network Clubhouse for Apple customers, are playing an increasingly important role among users.

Isn't the depiction of animal suffering also educational?

Our campaign refers specifically to wanton violence against animals that is disseminated without context and for entertainment. Of course, we do not demand that content with a documentary or informative purpose in terms of raising awareness about abuses (as used by organisations like us and the media) be banned from social networks. However, it is imperative and the responsibility of the social networks to consistently check whether the appropriate context is given. If it is not, the content must be deleted irrevocably.

The consequences of the as yet almost unrestricted and non-embedded depiction of animal suffering could be immense and increase animal suffering worldwide.

What are community standards?

Community standards are guidelines that the networks have issued and to which users must agree when they register with the network. By registering, every user agrees to comply with the community standards. They deal with security, copyright and privacy but also with avoiding the glorification of violence or the depiction of other crimes. The community standards are considered "living" by most social networks, as they are revised on occasion. The world's largest networks, Facebook and YouTube, for example, use "policy teams" or trusted flagger teams, which consist of experts in various fields, for this purpose.

Another part of the community standards of some networks are also explanations of how violations are dealt with. 

How did we do our research?

As the Welttierschutzgesellschaft, we are confronted with tips from animal lovers regarding the portrayal of animal suffering content on a daily basis. This was discovered on almost all of the above-mentioned social networks - and had already spread across the networks among millions of users over a period of days. Since our hands are also tied and a prosecution of individual content is not feasible, we always instruct the persons to report the content themselves. Employees of the WTG also act accordingly. From this experience, we know that some of the networks do not react to reports and others do not even give users the authority to report content.

What are other important terms related to social networks?
  • Challenge: In a Challenge, one person performs an action or activity on social networks and then nominates other people to do the same - it is similar to a bet. As a rule, the focus of a Challenge is on fun and social benefit, as many Challenges are linked to fundraising activities for a good cause: the nominated people are asked to donate a contribution to the previously specified organisation after the action or - if they do not accept the challenge - to donate a larger sum. In 2014, for example, the so-called "Ice Bucket Challenge" gained great resonance, the challenge of which consisted of pouring a bucket of ice-cold water over one's head in order to draw attention to the nerve disease ALS. In the meantime, however, Challenges have also become the starting point for many animal cruelties, as we have described above.
  • Timeline: This is the individual start page in the respective network. This is where the content that the user is following is displayed.
  • Post: The dictionary defines "posting" as a written contribution in an internet forum. A post is also understood to be photo or video content.
  • Hashtag: A hashtag is a keyword used to make content in social networks easier to find using the search function. For this purpose, the keyword is immediately preceded by the hash sign. This form of tagging is usually done within the body of the text, although a hashtag can also be placed before or after the text. For example, the hashtag #TeamTierschutz can be used to display all content that has been tagged with this keyword.
  • Reporting: Users have the option of drawing the attention of the respective networks to questionable content by reporting this content. This means that they send the corresponding content to the network employees or so-called moderators for review. In most cases - depending on the network - there are three dots to click on in the upper right-hand corner next to the post. This opens up a submenu where you can click on "Report post".
  • Moderators: These are the employees of the network or partner companies commissioned to respond to reported posts.