Arguably the best thing about social media—and Instagram, in particular—is the endless scroll of adorable animal content. Who hasn’t gotten sucked into a vortex of heartwarming rescue stories and outrageously adorable animal videos? (That was a rhetorical question, because the answer is obviously no one.)
But the social media platform is also a minefield of deceptive accounts that are actually promoting exploitative attractions, such as taking selfies with captive wild animals or riding elephants, which involve behind-the-scenes animal abuse. Identifying these problematic accounts may be a challenge, as their creators intentionally make them misleading. After all, the goal of these companies is to profit off unsuspecting animal enthusiasts by using words such as “sanctuary,” “rescued,” and “conservation” to trick people into thinking that they’re helping animals. Snuggling with baby tiger cubs and snapping selfies with chimpanzees may be entertaining to some humans, but it’s typically hell for the animals. Instagram itself is getting wise to this abuse, and it now issues a warning message about exploitation and animal abuse that pops up whenever someone searches for hashtags such as #TigerSelfie or #BlackJaguarWhiteTiger.
So how can you purge your feed of these exploitative accounts? Follow our guide below to help identify shady and safe Instagram accounts that feature animals:
So now that you’ve unfollowed all the problematic accounts (we’re looking at you, Black Jaguar–White Tiger Foundation and Myrtle Beach Safari), we have some good news: There are some legitimate sanctuaries out there doing wonderful work for animals! Take a look at @wildanimalsanctuary, @savethechimps, and @theelephantsanctuary and give them a follow. And of course, follow @PETA for all the latest animal-friendly news.
In addition to wiping your Instagram feed clean of cruelty to animals, exercise the same care when planning your next travel excursion. Learn how to identify a real animal sanctuary so that you can be sure your next vacation doesn’t support animal abuse.