NEW RSPCA figures reveal there were nearly 500 reports of animal cruelty on social media last year - more than twice the previous year.

The majority of incidents appeared on Facebook.

As part of the charity’s Cancel Out Cruelty campaign, the RSPCA is highlighting its concerns that more young people are being exposed to animal cruelty on social media. It has joined forces with The Daily Mirror to call on the Governments in England and Wales to include animal welfare in education.

David Allen, of the RSPCA, said: “Sadly, we have seen an increase in recent years in the number of incidents of animal cruelty being posted and shared on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. We’re very concerned that the use of social media has changed the landscape of abuse with videos of animal cruelty being shared for likes and kudos with this sort of content normalising - and even making light of - animal cruelty.

“What’s even more worrying is the level of cruelty that can be seen in these videos, particularly as so many young people are being exposed to graphic footage of animals being beaten or killed which they otherwise would never have seen.”

A recent survey of RSPCA’s frontline officers revealed:

● 81% think that more abuse is being caught on camera

● Nearly half (46%) think more cases are appearing on social media.

● One in five officers said one of the main causes of cruelty to animals is people hurting animals to make themselves more popular on social media.

Some of the recent cruelty videos posted on social media include;

● A video of a magpie being thrown across the road on Instagram in June 2021

● A woman captured kicking her dog on TikTok in March 2021

● A teenager being filmed kicking a dog which was shared on WhatsApp in May 2021

● Videos posted on Instagram of cockerels being forced to fight in March 2021

The charity’s Special Operations unit works to trace these social media videos and - often with the police - will visit schools to speak to parents and teachers.

The aim is to educate these children to ensure they understand that being cruel or causing unnecessary suffering to an animal is not funny and is wrong.

Dave added: “While these videos of abuse are horrible and it’s worrying that young people are being exposed to them the positive is that young people are equally appalled by this and report this to their teachers and parents and to us.

“This is one of the reasons we believe teaching animal welfare in schools is so important in stopping this trend and inspiring children and young people to have compassion and empathy for animals.

“We are so grateful The Daily Mirror is supporting our Cancel Out Cruelty campaign and I would urge all readers to take a moment out of their day to sign our petition for animal welfare to be taught to children. Together we can make a real difference .”

The RSPCA has already reached out to 180,000 children and young people through its programmes such as Compassionate Class, the Great Debate, and its four education hubs across England.