Monday, September 6, 2010

The Growing Influence of Facebook, YouTube and the power of video

I am on Facebook and I'm friends with various vegans and animal rights activists. Recently, a Facebook group was formed to protest a young Bosnian woman who allegedly posted a video of herself on YouTube tossing several puppies into a fast-flowing river. The video shows her in a red hoodie, reaching into a white pail, picking up newborn pups and throwing them into a nearby flowing waters.

The world went apeshit. New groups popped up on Facebook overnight. One group, "We Hate the Puppy-Throwing Girl," gained 6,582 likers in a few days. Friends posted the video on Facebook. I watched it and it made me squeamish. I'm not going to post it here. I know, I know. I have posted some pretty damn grim stuff here. But posting a video about the appalling conditions that chickens endure on a daily basis, or footage of calves been butchered for veal, seems to have an educational value. The video of the girl in the red hoodie tossing puppies feels more like exploitation.

Miraculously, Bosnian authorities claim they've captured the girl. The woman has been identified (allegedly) as Katja Puschnik. Apparently, she even - again, allegedly - posted a video apology on YouTube that was yanked off the Website due to use violations. Who knows if it's true? Let's face it - the flow of news out of that part of the world leaves a great deal to be desired. The plot thickened, though, when the girl's grandmother - who allegedly ordered her granddaughter to get rid of the puppies in the first place - came forward and claimed she waded into the river and rescued the poor animals. But, like I said, the news coming out of Bosnia is sketchy and difficult to verify. Some sources have even suggested the video is a hoax. (Source)

What is not difficult to verify is the firestorm this video has caused in the West. The Web has lit up like a pinball machine, with Facebook being one of the most active mobilizing outlets. A number of organizations offered rewards for the girl's capture. Director Michael (Transformers) Bay put up a $50,000 reward for "information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of the woman in the red sweatshirt who threw the puppies and the person who videotaped this act of cruelty." (Source) And a website called 4Chan has also been receiving a lot of attention for promoting "Internet Vigilantism" in promoting the search for the puppy-throwing girl.

The video of the so-called "puppy-throwing girl" comes on the heels of a controversial video of a British woman named Mary Bale, who was filmed in August putting her neighbour's cat, Lola, into a dumpster. Like the puppy-tossing video, the video of Lola being tossed in a dumpster (she was heard meowing 15 hours later by her owner, who posted the video of Mary's nasty act), sparked a global outrage.

It would be easy to rant and rave about double standards. Why is it that cruelty to dogs and cats sparks so much anger, while the harsh treatment of factory farm animals fails to stir most people? But I am actually heartened by the rage triggered by these videos. It shows that people are becoming more and more sensitive about the treatment of animals. If we can figure out how to channel that rage, and teach the public that all animals deserve to be treated with compassion and kindness, then there is some hope of gaining new adherents to the animal rights movement.

Video is our greatest ally. Ten years ago, in the year 2000, these types of controversies were rare because there was no YouTube, no Facebook, and animal cruelty was difficult to verify. Now, thanks to the potent combination of improved video technology and the Internet, a new storm has been unleashed, one that is impossible to contain. The revolution is not very old (keep in mind, YouTube was started in February 2005, and at that point, not all computers could operate its Flash videos). We are still, in fact, in its infancy. This juggernaut will take us in interesting directions. It has already won many hearts and minds over to the cause of animal rights.

So as awful as these videos are (I cringed and looked away as the red-hoodied girl tossed those puppies), take heart. The truth will out.


  1. Andrew, I especially appreciate your observations about the potentialities for video technology and the internet to bring visual evidence of atrocities inflicted on non-human animals to a wide...hitherto uninformed, audience.

    Something else is also available, video about the behavior of other animals. For instance I recently came across a video of someone playing with a baby porcupine ( It is extremely unlikely that I would have had an opportunity to be witness (albeit second-handedly) to such youthful playfulness between a porcupine and a human except for this technology. I have also seen many instances of inter-species friendship and interaction that would have otherwise been unavailable.

    In addition to exposing horror, opportunities exist for expanding our awareness (and our astonishment) and decreasing the lamentably large amount of ignorance we harbor about our fellow sentient beings. That baby porcupine has spin moves that anyone would envy.

    Thanks for a thought-inspiring post.

  2. I couldn't agree more. That ibex I posted the other day, arguing with the guy, has more personality than most of the people I know. It is wonderful to see these animals expressing themselves, showing their dignity and their pride, and living full and enriching lives. Video can also show us how animals are meant to live! :)