3. Social Media Exhibition Cruelty and Exploitation

A look at the use of social media platforms, specifically Instagram and TikTok for animal exploitation and cruelty.

3. Social Media Exhibition Cruelty and Exploitation
    The Animal Legal Defense Fund has alleged in its February 2022 Complaint that the following social media users engage in lucrative animal exhibition without a license, and depictions in their social media pages indicate substandard care and cruelty.

    Social media platforms give normal people access to subscribers, advertising, direct platform contributions as streams of revenue. The people who are exhibiting their animals on social media are doing so to the public for income, and thus should be under the purview of APHIS's licensing scheme which would require some minimal inspections and welfare requirements. Instead, individuals are inflicting cruelty and exploiting nonhuman animals with absolutely no oversight while profiting.

    As the Justice Department itself has argued, social media and pornography network, "OnlyFans," is an exhibiting website and/or app where users share content to the public for money. YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram are other outlets where users share videos, photographs, and other content to the public as a primary revenue source. Indeed, some social media "influencers" make vast sums of money by ads, product placement, subscriptions, and direct payments. If the AWA requires exhibitors to be licensed -- and thus inspected -- for the exhibition of so many mammals, and such exhibition is running unchecked and rampant on social media outlets, then APHIS, the enforcement body of the AWA is failing to meet its statutory duty.
    The animals exhibited on social media outlets are not being inspected, and are subject to extreme cruelty and exploitation.

    Indeed, many viral videos with animals are based on the exploitation of frightened animals. Several years ago the video of a slow loris was making the viral rounds. It showed a slow loris raising its arms at being "tickled." Slow lorises raise their arms as a defense mechanism when they're scared. Millions of people across the world were laughing at an animal who was being terrorized for likes and subscriptions. Further compounding the trials of the slow loris, they are on the brink of extinction and the viral nature of these sort of videos increases the illegal wildlife market for them, removing more from the wild and occasionally their families for more likes and subscriptions. From videos where animals are posed with strings to screaming frogs and cats afraid of cucumbers, where ever animals are being exhibited on social media, there are literal and figurative strings pulling them.

    Rico Exotic, located in Northern Ohio, was forced by the Ohio Department of Agriculture to give up his monkey. Not APHIS. Rico Exotic is a TikToker who has 1.5 million followers and more than 35.5 million likes on TikTok and 117,000 followers on Instagram. Given the number of followers and likes across platforms, Rico Exotic can be raking in thousands of dollars from advertisements, brand endorsements, platform creator funds, and direct payments from their viewers and supporters. He has no license nor any inspection verifying the health and welfare of his exotic captives.

    Hit "next" to view AWA Unenforcement of Social Media Exploitation.