The UK's largest animal rights group is blasting Instagram for what it calls the "immoral" practice of allowing users to advertise animals for sale.
UPDATE: U.S. animal rights group PETA said it will now mount a campaign to force Instagram to stop allowing images of animals for sale. The organization was unaware of the issue until receiving a call for comment from an MSN News reporter, after which they released the following statement:
"PETA is in the process of writing to both Facebook and Instagram to call on them both to join other leading companies — including Amazon, Craigslist, and eBay — that have policies against the online sale of dogs, cats, and other live animals. Web sales of animals are dangerous: It's impossible to ensure that these vulnerable animals are headed to responsible, loving homes, where they will receive proper social, physical, and veterinary care, and online ads appeal to impulse buyers who likely won't give serious thought to the lifelong commitment needed to provide an animal with stability. Also, of course, allowing any breeder to advertise online kills shelter dogs' chances: For every puppy or kitten who is bred and sold by a breeder, an animal awaiting adoption at a shelter loses his or her chance of finding a home."
TRUE: Advertisements showing animals for sale can regularly be found on Instagram under the hashtag #forsale
Amid the thousands of photos of handcrafted knickknacks, fashionable clothing items, custom jewelry and sold-out concert tickets found under the hashtag #forsale on Instagram, there are also photos of animals such as dogs, cats, hamsters, sheep and snakes. It's those latter types of pictures, which are perfectly legal in most cases, that has the United Kingdom's biggest animal rights group accusing Instagram of enabling a "modern slave trade."
Instagram screen grab
Instagram screen grab of advertisements of dogs for sale.
"Clearly, Instagram is supposed to be a photo-sharing site, isn't it?" Andrew Tyler, the director of Animal Aid, told MSN News from Tonbridge, England. "But it's being used to trade animals. This sends out a message that (animals) are just another object, another piece of crap in our lives: If you want it, I've got it, and I'll sell it to you."
There is nothing illegal about advertising animals for sale in the United States or the UK using Instagram, assuming those animals can legally be sold in the first place. Laws regarding the sale of animals exist in different forms in different states and countries. For example, most states prohibit the selling of puppies that are younger than 8 weeks old but provide penalties ranging from a minor infraction to a Class 1 misdemeanor for violating the law. Exotic animals also can face different regulations in different places, such as in Alabama, where it's perfectly legal to own a tiger or a bear, or Colorado, where it's illegal to own either.
Tyler, who referred to animal sales as a "modern slave trade," said one of his main criticisms of Instagram's animal sales activity is that it may allow people to bypass regulations.
Asked to comment about the advertisement of animals for sale and the criticism of animal rights groups directed at the site, an Instagram spokesperson shared general guidelines of the site but refused to address animals specifically.
"Instagram has a clear set of community guidelines which make it clear what is and isn't allowed," read the statement sent to MSN News. "We ask that people do not share photos or videos of illegal content. We encourage people who come across content they find uncomfortable using the report tools next to every photo or video on Instagram."
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