Calls to include animal cruelty content in online safety laws
"The inclusion of badger baiting and cruelty towards badgers and dogs in the scope of the Online Safety Bill is desperately needed." - Peter Hambly
Coalition urges government to include animal cruelty content in new Online Safety Bill.

A coalition, made up of organisations including the Badger Trust, Wildlife and Countryside Link, and the AfA Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition, has written to the secretary of state for science, innovation and technology Michelle Donelan MP. The letter urges her to make amendments to the new UK Online Safety Bill to include animal cruelty content.

The new bill, which is in its final stages of development, aims to protect children and vulnerable adults from “illegal” or “harmful” online content. It will place more responsibility with social media companies to moderate and remove such content from their platforms.

Animal experts warn that the omission of animal abuse content from the bill would be a serious failing by the government, and argue that young people are put at risk if they are exposed to such content.

They say that the sharing of videos, images and commentary of animal abuse and crimes such as badger baiting not only normalises violence towards animals, it allows people to organise these crimes.

A poll carried out by the RSPCA found that nearly a quarter of schoolchildren aged 10 to 18 years had witnessed animal cruelty or neglect on social media. And according to a study published in 2018, children who witness animal cruelty are three to eight times more likely to abuse animals themselves.

Badger Trust’s Executive Director, Peter Hambly, commented: “The inclusion of badger baiting and cruelty towards badgers and dogs in the scope of the Online Safety Bill is desperately needed as the filming and sharing of this type of activity has increased with frightening speed.”

The RSPCA revealed figures in September 2022 that showed that the amount of animal cruelty posted on social media had almost doubled since the previous year. There were 756 reports of animal abuse on social media in 2021 compared with 431 in 2020.

Lead coordinator of the Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC), and group representative Nicola O’Brien said: “Social media platforms are frankly just not doing enough to deal with the vast amount of content that perpetuates animal cruelty on their platforms.

“Despite having some policies prohibiting animal cruelty content on the platforms, this content is readily available to social media users. Therefore platforms need to be held to account to ensure they enforce their own policies to protect animals and users alike.”