Mental Health

Psychology

Mandy Kloppers

Shocking facts about the rise of animal abuse online

baby macaque monkeys

Animal abuse online is rising. In the past few weeks I have been conducting research into this concerning phenomenon. I found that although there is some information online about animal abuse, there is very little when it comes to why people are watching animal abuse and why it is increasing in numbers. In this blog post, I will outline the current state of affairs when it comes to animal abuse online, in particular baby macaque monkeys and I will attempt to explain the psychology behind the desire to see sentient creatures being tortured and abused.

Shocking facts about animal abuse online

My quest into understanding the dynamics regarding animal abuse online all began innocently enough. I tend to visit Twitter daily to see what is trending. As I was scrolling I came across two of the cutest baby macaque monkeys who had been ‘saved from a flood’ (see the main featured image – this is where it all started for me). I couldn’t help but click on their image. They were waiting patiently for a bottle of milk to be prepared, covered in mud with one monkey sucking its thumb. The image of these two baby monkeys brought out all my natural nurturing instincts.

After this I delved a little deeper and found out that many of these videos of baby monkeys are not as sweet and charming as they first appear. Baby monkeys stay with their mothers up until 18 months in the wild and part of their psychological development includes being able to cling to their mothers and have that close physical connection. Most of the clips that I saw online showed baby monkeys being isolated and deprived of closeness and physical touch.

caged monkey
Image of sad monkey face is behind banister in a zoo.

The animal abuse online is not always obvious

Seeing a cute baby monkey dressed in clothes and wandering around with humans all seems very quaint but actually these babies are taken away from their mothers and are psychologically deprived. This deprivation leads to emotional complications and a lot of misery for these young monkeys who should still be with their mothers. Many of the rescues that I witnessed were staged. The baby monkeys are placed in dire situations and then the ‘hero humans come along and rescue them. Don’t be fooled by these fake rescues. More often than not the babies have been placed there on purpose. I also found many videos off baby macaque monkeys hungry, tired, calling for their mothers and left to fend for themselves in water, mud or other challenging situations.

Sometimes two young monkeys are placed together. The younger one will invariably cling to the older one making it harder for the older monkey to escape their dire situation. I often witnessed baby monkeys being forcibly removed from the human mother they have become attached to. The baby monkeys are desperate to cling as they would to their natural mothers but these human mothers repeatedly push them away and leave them alone to self soothe. Being left on their own is incredibly stressful for a baby monkey. When they are stressed, they begin geckering.

What is geckering?

Many researchers believe that the gecker is, in fact, a distress cry used by infants in response to being ignored or separated from their mothers. The videos I have viewed on social media tend to support this theory. When babies are denied physical contact from their human mothers, they tend to gecker. Geckering also occurs when they are frustrated or kept away from their food deliberately.

Harry Harlow’s (1958) experiment on infant monkey attachment

Harry Harlow Theory & Rhesus Monkey Experiments in Psychology

Harlow’s experiments on baby monkeys confirmed that baby monkeys crucially require physical contact with their mothers. Baby monkeys had the choice between a wire frame mother with a milk bottle installed or a cloth framed mother which was softer but offered no food. Repeatedly the baby monkey would cling to the cloth framed mother, especially in times of stress or in unfamiliar surroundings and would only go to the wire framed mother when it needed food. The experiment showed that baby monkeys will choose comfort every time even when there is food being offered.

Harlow's rhesus monkey experiment

In the baby monkey videos on social media it was clear to see how monkeys became attached to a piece of cloth or a soft toy (the lucky ones) and how they would become visibly distressed when they were separated from this item.

scared macaque monkey
Macaque Monkey family

Baby monkey abuse

As I delved deeper into the murky online world of baby monkey abuse, I realised how widespread the problem is. Many of the monkey abuse channel owners manage more than one channel and monetize the channels. They do their best to capitalise on the abuse that they unleash on these poor innocent animals.

The milder forms of abuse, as mentioned earlier in this blog post, include denying the baby monkeys physical contact, food, comfort and safety. Baby monkeys are placed in precarious positions where they are fighting for their survival, such as being placed in rivers or marshes or escaping dogs, for example. Sometimes they are left alone and sometimes they are left with another baby monkey and filmed. Initially I hoped that by the end of the clip a human would step in but in many of these clips, the end does not bring any satisfaction or rescue.

Some baby monkeys are placed with live snakes, dogs, tied up in netting and other frightening scenarios. I could not bring myself to watch many of the clips but could see from the thumbnail what the clip would generally be about. Baby monkeys are placed in ridiculous situations where they are deliberately trapped or where they have to balance so as not to fall into a well of water.

Bathing baby monkeys is a popular way to gain social media views and most infant monkeys find bathing stressful. In some videos the human abuser would place so much soap on the monkeys that they could barely breathe. A woman placed a comment, “Oh look how sweet, it’s blowing a bubble”. It was clear to see they monkeys were being abused, and dumped in buckets head first and then almost drowned and the comments made my stomach churn.

I won’t go into all the details but this footage is out there and people enjoy watching it. To me that is the most concerning part. If there is an appetite for this disturbing abuse of content, it will continue to feature online.

There is of course, far worse abuse online such as maiming, severe torture, sexual abuse and killing of monkeys but the clips I had already seen left me sleepless so I decided not to do further research into the hardcore abuse as I knew the images would never leave me.

Why do people watch animal abuse online?

As I scrolled through various social media account accounts, it was obvious to see by the number of views how graphic and violent the video would be. The more violent and abusive the video, the higher the views tended to be.

What’s more, when I read some of the comments they truly shocked me. Vile comments such as you’re being too soft on them or hit them a little harder were common.

The other shocking find was that there were plenty of women watching these videos and when I looked at their profiles, many of them were mothers. A high percentage of the people watching these abusive videos online donated to cancer charities, purported to be animal lovers or showed other similar philanthropic tendencies. I was very surprised by these seemingly ‘innocent and sweet’ women who were then commenting on how much they were enjoying viewing the abuse of these baby monkeys. Some of the comments came from people who knew the various monkeys names and were clearly regular visitors to the daily updated abuse. I found this particularly horrific. One woman even commented on how previous monkeys had died and when would the current one being filmed meet its end. Yuck.

To think there are people in this world who make their children’s school lunches, head out for grocery shopping and then enjoy a quick spot of watching money torture online before carrying on with the rest of their day is completely bizarre.

Being a psychologist, I was extremely interested in understanding why people enjoy watching defenceless baby animals being abused.

My theory on the desire to watch animal abuse online

One thing that I have come across in my work and my research is that the more woke the world becomes, the more people search for other ways to satiate their demons. I found that there seemed to be a connection between a person’s misery, frustration at life and their tendency to watch abuse online. The brain is drawn to what is familiar and for some people who have experienced childhood trauma and abuse there can, sadly, be something satisfying about witnessing abuse on animals.

Another thing that I noticed is that baby monkeys tend to offer something slightly different compared to cats, dogs and other animals. They are very human like in their appearance and in their expressions and reactions and this likeness provides a different level of familiarity that humans can relate to.

I have come across people who can easily watch baby monkeys being abused online but would not cope with seeing a cat or dog abused. Some of the viewers who commented on the abuse had numerous pictures of their beloved pets on their profiles. It’s a complex subject and more research needs to be done into the dynamics of witnessing online animal abuse and what it gives, to certain people.

I would like to understand more about what happens in the brain when somebody with a traumatic childhood witnesses animal abuse compared to someone who grew up with a stable happy attachment.

Counteracting the horrific abuse of baby monkeys online

I reported a few of the accounts that were abusing baby macaque monkeys and less than half were deleted by Facebook. As these perpetrators often manage more than one account, it can be difficult to shut them down completely.

The best way to counteract the online abuse of monkeys is to report what you find and to not engage or follow or like any of their clips.

Looking at the bigger picture of the online abuse of animals, I believe that the hardships of life promote the desire to view the suffering of other creatures. Not every person will want to see animals suffer. It is a well known fact that the precursor to becoming a murderer is often the psychopaths and sociopaths who abuse animals as children. Is it faulty wiring in the brain? The age-old psychological debate of whether behaviour is genetic or environmental still rages on. Most mental health experts have come to the conclusion that it is absolutely an interaction of the two. There will always be more than one variable that creates a specific outcome.

More research needs to be done into this worrying trend  of watching the torture of animals. Understanding why some people get satisfaction from this is key in reducing this horrific, cruel behaviour that is growing rapidly online.

macaque monkey baby
baby monkey eating

Additional info:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/extra/Iot1dIWVS5/hunting-the-monkey-torturers

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001n32l

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