Dear Everyone, Animals Are Not Selfie Props (Updates)

Published by PETA.

Update: May 7, 2021

Folks who witnessed men posing with what appears to be a young tiger shark in the Chassahowitzka River in Florida did exactly what they should’ve done: alerted authorities. After multiple good Samaritans called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the agency launched an investigation and reportedly issued two “notices to appear” to those allegedly involved.

This shark—who, according to one witness, was killed after being tied to a boat, dragged up the river, and used as a photo prop—should not have been tormented for selfies, “likes,” or any other reason. Sharks—who sometimes work together to obtain food and have even been known to mind their manners while eating—deserve what all animals deserve: to be left in peace. We hope the FWC protects all residents of its state by throwing the book at these men if they’re convicted. And if you’re as outraged over the stunt as Twitter is, there’s something you can do to help sharks, too:

Find Out Why Eating Tuna or Shrimp Is Like Eating Shark

Update: August 12, 2020

Huckleberry did his best to survive, but a few vain humans still managed to get the black bear killed.

Apparently a bit of a legend in British Columbia, Canada, Huckleberry reportedly kept his distance from humans, until last week when some residents—in an attempt to snap a photo—decided to lure the vulnerable animal closer with food. “You were willing to coexist, but people were not,” a local organization wrote on Facebook. “If only people had … respected you enough to not have any garbage or food scraps accessible in the first place. We did you a disservice, Huckleberry.” According to the organization, after the incident, officers deemed the bear too comfortable around humans and tranquilized him, after which he was “taken away to be killed.”

Had these people done the right thing—left wildlife in peace—Huckleberry would certainly still be alive, climbing trees, spending hours foraging for his own food, breaking up logs, and doing other things that black bears enjoy in nature. Instead, they essentially signed his death warrant, all for a photo op.

Huckleberry’s story is not unique. Just yesterday, a now-viral video surfaced showing a group of people gathered at a picnic table outdoors, feeding a large black bear a peanut butter sandwich. It was reposted to Instagram with the fitting caption, “How to get a bear killed.”

And last year, a young bear was shot and killed in Oregon after people took selfies with him. No one should die for “likes.” It may be too late for the young bear and Huckleberry, but we can still help many others like them simply by leaving animals in peace.

Update: April 10, 2020

Attention, TikTok users: When vying for your 15 seconds of fame, please, leave animals out of it.

@braden.lynch

@benlynch75 found this in the archives lol #fyp #levelup #quarentine

♬ original sound – Braden Lynch

In the video above—which was posted to TikTok earlier this week by Braden Lynch (@braden.lynch)—two beachgoers (presumable Braden and Ben Lynch, who was tagged) yank, tug, and even punch sharks they apparently pulled from the water, all while others (including young children) look on.

TikTok says its mission is to “inspire creativity and bring joy,” but dragging struggling sharks out of their ocean home and subjecting them to terrifying abuse is neither creative nor joyful—it’s cruel and pathetic.

Animals aren’t selfie props.

Did you know that many sharks live for a century or longer (when not exploited by humans)? And—get this—the world’s biggest shark, the whale shark, is also one of the gentlest. Like all wildlife, these amazing fish just want to be left in peace.

Whether shark, tiger cub, or human being, no one wants (or deserves) to be treated like a plaything.

To demonstrate that it won’t stand for cruelty to animals, TikTok should ban Braden from its platform immediately and permanently. Social media platforms should hold animal abusers accountable.

Update: March 11, 2019

This time, it was a human, not another animal, who paid the price for an attempted wild-animal selfie. A woman was injured at the Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park, Arizona, after she reportedly leaned across a safety barrier to try to get a picture with a jaguar. According to reports, the female cat swatted the woman’s arm with her paw, causing injuries that were not life-threatening.

The roadside zoo’s director told reporters that this is the second time this big cat has attacked a human who tried to encroach on her enclosure. PETA is once again reminding everyone that when they try to use wild and exotic animals as photo props, they shouldn’t be surprised when the animals try to protect themselves.

Originally posted on August 17, 2017:

Yet another victim has been added to the growing list of “animal selfie” fatalities—this time, a baby dolphin. In order to take a photo, beachgoers, who should now be locked up, showed a naïve—and ultimately fatal—disregard for life. Dolphins are highly sensitive, self-aware individuals, and one can only imagine the trauma endured not only by this young dolphin, who was abused and prodded like a stuffed toy.

In March 2016, a swan reportedly died after being dragged from a lake in Macedonia by a female tourist who wanted to pose for photographs with the struggling animal.

The previous month, a baby dolphin died after being dragged from his or her ocean home and passed around for selfies by a crowd of eager tourists. The horrifying scene took place on a beach in Argentina and was documented on social media, sparking international outrage, with many calling for criminal charges for those responsible.

Reports indicate that after the photos were taken, the animal’s body was unceremoniously discarded on the beach. The baby dolphin had apparently served his or her purpose with the selfies already taken.

Because of the callousness of this incident, one might think of this event as an isolated one, fueled by a sort of mob mentality and misguided excitement over seeing a rare animal. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

Days later, in a different part of the world, a similar video surfaced of a man pulling a struggling shark from the ocean in Florida and pinning down the resistant animal while smiling for a photo. After he releases the shark, you can see the disoriented animal thrashing near the shore, unable to swim away or perhaps too traumatized by the incident to know what to do next. It is unclear whether the shark ultimately survived the encounter.

And it’s not just animals who are being pulled from oceans and lakes falling victim to people’s need for the perfect Instagram photo. While the shark was suffering in Florida, two peacocks reportedly died at a zoo in China after visitors grabbed them for selfies and even pulled out some of their feathers.

But animals suffering for photo ops is nothing new. Baby tigers are often ripped from their mothers shortly after birth and are subjected to extreme stress, and some are even subjected to physical abuse as money-hungry animal exhibitors force them to pose with smiling tourists. Once the tigers are no longer babies and become too large and dangerous to pose for pictures, they are typically shipped off to other roadside zoos and forgotten.

Dolphins at “swim-with-the-dolphins” attractions fare no better, as the animals are denied everything that is natural and important to them and forced to swim in claustrophobic swimming pools. They often die prematurely. Just because dolphins always look like they’re smiling does not mean that the animals actually are happy and want to pose for your pictures.

man swimming with dolphin

Remember: Animals aren’t selfie props. If there’s any risk that your photo is going to hurt or stress an animal, it’s not worth it.

What You Can Do

Never patronize any place that profits from exploiting live animals, and leave wildlife in peace. Learn more:

Live in Harmony With Wildlife

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind