Within seconds, a clip of a woman petting a cat to the beat of Queen’s classic Bohemian Rhapsody went from touching moment to apparent abuse.
The individual, who The Sun chose not to name, aggressively slapped his cat across the face and body as the petrified animal bared its teeth and cowered in pain.
Two commenters wrote in response to the vile video, which has been liked 105,000 times, “I laughed so hard” and “LMFAO snot flew, help me!”.
But for animal charities, this is no laughing matter.
They claim that clips like these, found via popular hashtags, “normalize violence” against pets and encourage abuse.
Millions across the country were outraged after The Sun revealed footage of West Ham footballer Kurt Zouma, 27, kicking his cat.
Yet, many similar videos exist online – and the number is growing day by day.
The Sun found countless clips, including one showing a distressed animal yelping after losing its stability due to having cheese slices put on its paws which received six million likes.
Others have shown the pets rushing to their food bowls only to be sent flying after hitting an invisible barrier of duct tape. In some videos, owners wore giant cat masks to terrify their pets.
When approached by The Sun, TikTok told us there was “no room for this kind of behavior” on the platform. Yet he only removed two of the 11 clips we highlighted that showed varying degrees of animal abuse.
Violators in the UK can receive up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine – and Zouma, despite not having been charged, knows all too well the consequences of his actions.
The defender was fined £250,000 – two weeks’ wages – by his East London club, sacked from the squad, lost his sponsorship deal with Adidas and had his animals confiscated company by the RSPCA.
But while there has been clear action against the player, the heinous behavior of other online abusers goes largely unpunished.
Many clips are posted under the same three hashtags, which we have chosen not to reveal, which collectively attract over 90 BILLION views.
And in a world of social media influencers and 15 minutes of internet fame, it seems TikTok users are resorting to increasingly extreme lengths to gain validation and followers.
Several videos involved forcing a rubber band over a cat’s head to force its ears up to make them look like a rabbit.
The cruelty clearly upset many cats, who shook their heads rapidly in different directions and hissed – a clear indication that they were distressed.
These clips were accompanied by popular songs, including 50 Cent’s Candy Shop, attracting even more views and likes as TikTok distributes videos to a wider audience if they have a popular song on the platform.
In another, which received 20,000 likes, a woman strangled her cat, clenched its jaw tightly and slapped it, while the animal tried to avoid the blows.
Others have shown distressed pets having pancakes put on their faces, made to wear uncomfortable costumes and more – all for “entertainment”.
Madison Rodgers, of feline charity Cat Protection, told The Sun: “This type of content desensitizes people to abuse and signs of stress in cats.
This type of content desensitizes people to abuse and signs of stress in cats.
Madison Rodgers, cat protection
“It’s widely available on TikTok and that concerns us because people might think it’s OK and it will only normalize this kind of behavior towards pets.
“It’s not acceptable or funny – it’s animal cruelty. It’s stressful and traumatic for these pets. The line between candid moments and abuse is blurring.”
There are concerns that these videos, often part of challenges on TikTok that encourage users to copy other clips, could lead to more vicious attacks — including the worrying trend of “overwritten videos”.
These images, which appear on twisted fetish and sadistic sites, typically feature a woman using her stiletto heel, bare foot, or other body part to crush an animal.
Julia De Cadernet, founder of the NoToDogMeat movement, which targets countries that sell dog and cat meat as food, says she has been alerted to such vile videos on TikTok and other social media platforms.
She told The Sun: “I’ve seen bands use horrible clips they’ve found on the web to gain subscribers. Crush videos are often filmed by teenagers using women who appear to be influencers or look-alikes. of celebrities.
“Children are often filmed slaying pets while adults watch and laugh, and we’ve rescued cats from arcade games that had been grabbed by metal claws.”
Victoria Featherstone Pearce, co-founder of dog rescue charity K9 Angels, has also noticed a worrying increase in animal abuse clips.
She said: “There are so, so many cases where absolutely nothing is done. Vile clips are aired for the likes and laughs.
Kids are often filmed slaying pets while adults watch and laugh, and we’ve rescued cats from arcade amusements that had been grabbed by metal claws.
Julia De Cadernet, founder of the NoToDogMeat association
“It’s too easy to upload clips of innocent, helpless animals being punched and kicked and even sexually abused.”
The shock value
All the charities The Sun spoke to called on TikTok and other social media sites to be more proactive in finding abuse and removing clips faster.
Animal rights group PETA argued that “platforms profit from animal abuse” if they don’t ban people from sharing such content.
He said, “Users often post cruelty for its shock value, relying on people to share the content, which drives more visitors to the platform and ultimately increases ad revenue.”
Madison Rogers of Cat Protection added that TikTok needs to find ways “to encourage users not to engage” with such content, especially because it is “self-regulating”.
She added: “They should invest in staff to research animal abuse videos and, if found, report them to the authorities.”
Four Paws UK was “disgusted” by the amount of animal abuse on social media and urged TikTok to crack down to avoid “becoming synonymous with such violence”.
A spokesperson for the animal welfare organization added: “If we are to be the animal-loving nation we claim, we must not sit idly by and let it go unpunished.”
A global report by welfare network Asia For Animals Coalition found more than 5,480 links to animal cruelty content on TikTok, YouTube and Facebook between July 2020 and August 2021.
TikTok said it asks all users to follow its guidelines, which state animal cruelty should not be posted or shared.
A spokesperson told The Sun: “Animal abuse is horrendous and there is no place for this kind of behavior on TikTok.
“This goes against our community guidelines and we don’t hesitate to take action when people break these rules – up to and including permanently banning them from the platform.”