Don't F**k With Monkeys: Animal Cruelty on YouTube
Don't f**k with cats
IN 2019, A NETFLIX DOCUSERIES ENTITLED Don’t F**k With Cats was released to much acclaim, provoking a wave of macabre fascination with the case of the Canadian murderer and animal torturer Luka Magnotta, who had risen to fame around the time of his conviction for murder in Montreal in 2014. The documentary focused on the investigation by a team of online sleuths, who, after being notified of a web user uploading videos of cats being tortured, embarked on a large scale, coordinated investigation to identify the perpetrator and bring him to justice. Their attempts to stir appropriate law enforcement agencies into action fell flat, however, as their repeated attempts to provide critical information, which would have helped remove a dangerous criminal from the streets, were simply ignored.
As the online group claimed, their concerns were not just the animals that had been tortured and killed in videos shown on the internet, but also the welfare of other animals that such an unhinged individual may want to harm in the future, and even the welfare of human beings. For, even though there was no reason back then to assume that Magnotta would offend against a human being, there is very good empirical evidence linking willful abuse of non-human animals with the sadistic treatment of human beings. Law enforcement were warned repeatedly about this, but even the risk to human life was not enough to motivate the authorities to take action, and by the time they did act it was too late.
Sadly, this is far from an isolated case. In fact, animal abuse material is endemic to the internet. Still, in spite of the publicity received by the aforementioned docuseries, very little is being done to investigate and prevent the spread of such material. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that for some users this type of material plays a similar role to pornography, provoking some kind of bizarre pleasure. These users also seem to be quite addicted to this material, demanding more and more of it, and baying for ever greater depravity. When children or other vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly or disabled, are abused and exploited for the production of materials that exist with the sole purpose of bringing sensory pleasure to the viewer, authorities are typically quick to act. However, the authorities and major platforms such as YouTube consistently fail to act to ensure that animal abuse content is both A. taken down promptly, and B. investigated, with a view to prosecuting the guilty parties.
The case of "Lennie Briscoe"
Yet another animal abuse case has just now surfaced. And, once again, the powers that be have been extremely slow to act. A YouTube user with the name “Lennie Briscoe”, most likely taking his name from the character from the television show Law and Order (which interestingly featured an episode called “Whose Monkey is it Anyway” about a monkey that is released from a laboratory by animal rights activists and goes on to kill a scientist), was recently discovered accidentally by fellow users. His channel, which contained a very significant number of videos, specialized entirely in sadistic animal torture, showcasing videos of monkeys being beaten, electrocuted, and subjected to various other vile forms of torture such as forced tooth extraction, while his army of subscribers jeered and celebrated.
Word of the abuses spread online, with users calling for the content to be taken down. Some users claimed to have reported the content to YouTube but with absolutely no effect. In the meantime, “Lennie Briscoe’s” large YouTube fanbase continued to enjoy his sadistic video content, posting comments such as “I want to punch it” and “hold its head under water until it stops bubbling”.
Frustration at the apathy of YouTube, which continued to leave the sadistic animal cruelty channel in place, eventually reached such a degree that some users were driven to begin a petition to have the channel closed down. The channel does seem to have been closed down at last and some users report that the FBI were notified, although it’s not clear whether an investigation is ongoing and what will happen to the perpetrators, if anything. One user managed to identify the animal shop from which the monkeys were purchased as the so-called “Dede Baim AnimalShop”.
There are some questions however that Google / YouTube and the authorities need to answer:
- Why did it take so long to get something done?
- What is the policy (if any) for dealing with this type of content?
- Why is there no reporting category for flagging content as animal abuse?
- What is happening with the investigation of the perpetrators?
- Will they be brought to justice or not?
- Who are the perpetrators?
- Is there even an ongoing investigation?
Interestingly, monkey abuse fantasies and even a strong hatred or phobia of monkeys (Pithecophobia) is surprisingly common. In fact, a huge number of websites and videos of this sort exist. However, once again, YouTube is a one of the favoured platforms for the circulation of such abuse content. For instance, users recently also discovered an entire YouTube fandom dedicated to monkey abuse, featuring comments such as “Absolutely priceless! I think most people would love to beat him with a piece of hose…” and “He doesn’t get beaten nearly enough like he should”. The users commenting are often particularly brazen, in many cases using their own personal accounts, in spite of the nature of the content.
How YouTube can justify providing a platform for this type of sadistic abuse content is perplexing.
Our society normalizes animal abuse, allowing some forms of animal abuse because they lead to the production of the sort of sensory pleasure that is regarded as socially acceptable. Hypocritically, society also damns other forms of animal cruelty as unacceptable, as they produce a less conventionally acceptable kind of sensory pleasure. For instance, imprisoning an animal and making it suffer a violent death is supposedly acceptable if it leads to meat production, because consuming meat products is a conventionally acceptable form of sensory pleasure, although stabbing animals to death for the pure enjoyment of killing would, paradoxically, be met with outrage. Likewise, forced sexual interaction, is regarded as acceptable if it occurs in the context of the insemination of farmed animals and other attendant practices such as semen extraction, although if done purely for the sexual pleasure of the participant would be regarded as bestiality, zoophilia, or similar, and would lead to widespread and intense condemnation. We are even, with reference to both culture and the law, allowed to engage in the hunting of certain wild animals, which is nought but the deliberate and calculated application of violence to other thinking, feeling, suffering beings in the name of pleasure, i.e. pleasure in killing. So, it’s not a surprise that what we find, when we look at attempts to rationalize these behaviours, is inconsistency, contradiction, and hypocrisy.
Our crooked approach to the issue of animal cruelty often means that society, and the authorities in particular, being the agency by which society expresses collective moral outrage, are unsure of how to handle this type of cruelty. Given any amount of real contemplation, all such incidents would be immediately regarded as reprehensible, criminal, and immoral. But hunting, for example, is supposedly acceptable. Where should authorities draw the line? They are torn between morality and conformity. As can be seen by rational, honest introspection, all of these practices, regardless of how banal and ubiquitous some of them may be, are equally immoral. Another form of hypocrisy also rears its ugly head here. We can see it in the title of the docuseries “Don’t F**k With Cats”. To recognize certain basic rights, to not be brutalized, to not be treated barbarically, to not be killed unnecessarily, and so on, in respect of some species of sentient beings but not others, is speciesism. The slogan, if there must be one, should be “Don’t F**k With Animals”.
Animal abuse online
Nevertheless, the case of “Lennie Briscoe” once again highlights just how hard it is to get big corporations and the authorities to take the issue of animal abuse content seriously. It is necessary to start petitions and make complaints in great numbers and to wait for a lengthy period of time before any action is taken.
From the platforms’ perspective, that which ought to matter is context. Many platforms, including YouTube, are very quick to banish content containing nudity or sexual references, regardless of the context, even though there are many types of content containing such scenes or references other than content that seeks to subject people to sexual exploitation for money or to cause sexual arousal in viewers. Examples of this are: sexual health advisories, cinema, art, and documentaries. Nonetheless, YouTube subjects anyone publishing video content containing the slightest hint of nipple to savage penalties and censorship. Likewise, if swearing in a YouTube video these days, is a good way to lose any monetization that may have otherwise been enjoyed very swiftly. The platforms should be taking into account the context in which different types of content occur when formulating policy to determine whether and in what way to handle them.
The same principle ought to apply in relation to animal cruelty. If the goal of the content is very clearly to document, explain, or raise awareness about certain types of practices, then this is very different from content which gratuitously displays animal torture purely in order to generate delight in an audience of sadists. What is concerning about such content is that it is so blatant in a way that other types of abuse content, such as child exploitation content, would not be. Giving it a platform normalizes the abuse, encouraging other sadists to participate in activities that may otherwise have remained mere fantasies. Furthermore, providing a platform facilitates the dissemination of such abuse imagery, stimulating further demand, and, in turn, supply, which leads to more animal abuse occurring in order to provide “entertainment” for these individuals.
Some would suggest, as reflected in certain legal precedents that have been set in recent times, that a platform to which users are free to upload their own content, cannot really be made responsible for that content. However, it is difficult to see why such a principle should be recognised in a situation in which the platform has repeatedly been made aware of very clear breaches and yet continues to fail to take any action whatsoever. Ethically, if not legally, a share of the blame should rest on the shoulders of the platform.
Finally, if you do come across any online pro animal abuse groups, or communities making and / or sharing this type of content for “entertainment” purposes, please report it to the appropriate authorities: