For the price of a good selfie, anything can be a valid currency. More often than not, the selfies that accrue the most likes and shares are not simply of someone’s face. There are accompanying features: background scenery of a holiday, a natural wonder, a party, more people’s faces, pets. Basically anything that might make viewers hang around for longer than a continuous scroll. The problem with that is, that for fifteen minutes of likes, there are a lot of people who will do things otherwise known to be contentious. In service to the selfie, actions normally accepted as unacceptable become the norm.
One of these strange trends is the desire to take a selfie with a wild or exotic animal. The internet is without a doubt a place for the appreciation of animals, and today there is no problem with the idea of a cat earning global fame, even if only for a week. It is perhaps this attitude – animals should be displayed online – with the natural narcissistic streak that runs through all selfies, that has led people, from those acting alone to huge crowds, to drag animals from their natural habitats and cram iPhone camera lenses into their bewildered faces.
The charity, World Animal Protection, has collected data from 2014 onwards, and has discovered the unsurprising: wildlife is suffering in aid of a good selfie. Sloths have been found tied to trees, and ‘Our evidence suggests many sloths are likely to die within six months after capture.’ Caiman crocodiles have been left with rubber bands holding their jaws shut. Dolphins and snakes are being captured and offered by tourist organisations as props for selfies. Visit Brazil and have a photo with an anaconda, who could be dead or maimed after you leave. But who cares, that selfie has garnered one-hundred likes and everyone has seen you holding a dangerous animal.
World Animal Protection suggest a set of laws to fight the abuse, which realistically, is an almost impossible fight to win. It takes a minute to yank a sloth from a tree and take a photo. Even without the help of tourist groups suggesting which animals to ruin, people will make their own excursions while on holiday and do precisely the same thing. What is only just being accepted is that the internet essentially makes its own rules. Issues of morals and social decorum are lost on the web, and laws to restrict its range will always struggle to be effective.