Do not read this article

I’m serious. It’ll ruin your day. It will lower your opinion of humanity.

I’m sure there’s something more pleasant you can read to start your day.

OK, here we go. I warned you.

It’s monkey torture.

It’s a niche market on YouTube and the dark web, and in particular, Telegram, with it’s encrypted posts. People in places with lots of monkeys catch them, and then people in wealthy countries send them money with requests to do horrible things on video to them: hit them, stab them, drown them, decapitate them, throw them in a blender. By the way, these were all baby monkeys.

Kapetanich found half a dozen other monkeys on the YouTube like Mini. There was Monkey Ji, Baby Ciko, Chiro, Sweetpea, Mona — all baby long-tailed macaques being tortured on film. Some of the monkeys had developed physical tics from the stress. Monkey Ji was known for holding her head in her hands and rocking back and forth. Mini would grip her sides. The monkey haters in the comments loved it. “Abused multiple times a week since a baby. She has lived a TERRIBLE life,” someone wrote, approvingly, under a video of Mini. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a monkey more broken.”

By that point, hundreds of different YouTube channels were posting videos of baby macaques being abused. In some, the monkeys appeared to die on screen. “Watch them try to breathe while their idiotic brains shut down,” wrote one commenter. Lucy Kapetanich was horrified by what she saw. It hurt to watch as Mini’s owner cooed an Indonesian endearment — “sayang” — to her and then smacked her in the face. It all brought Kapetanich to tears more than once. But the monkey haters loved it.

“He sayang-ed Mini and then immediately smacked her!” wrote one, screen name “Grace”.

“Man I love those videos.”

You might wonder what kind of people get into this kind of stuff. One group on Telegram was called Ape’s Cage, and they seemed like ordinary people.

Ape’s Cage contained about 400 people. The cast of characters was a mixture of the strange and — even stranger — the seemingly normal, all known to one another by their screen names. There was the Torture King, who had invited Kapetanich in; there was “Sadistic”, a gas station attendant and grandmother in rural Alabama; there was “Bones”, a former US Air Force airman from Texas with a big collection of guns; and “Champei”, who caused chaos and infighting in every group he joined. There was “Trevor”, who couldn’t contribute during daytime hours because, “no phone at work, nuclear stuff”.

And it wasn’t just Americans, there were dedicated members in Europe and Australia. Among the cruellest contributors to the group was “The Immolator”, a 35-year-old woman who loved birds and lived with her parents in the English midlands.

The good news is these people were also rather stupid: they left clues to their identity all over the place, were freely talking about their personal life, their homes, their jobs, what they did in their spare time when they weren’t watching someone take a power drill to a baby monkey. In the US, distributing animal torture porn videos is illegal, and some are now facing prison time. The police will sporadically crack down on this stuff, and some of the social media organizations are committed to removing torture porn. Some.

In a statement, YouTube told us that animal abuse had “no place” on the platform and the company was “working hard to quickly remove violative content”. “Just this year alone, we’ve removed hundreds of thousands of videos and terminated thousands of channels for violating our violent and graphic policies,” the statement said. Telegram told us it was “committed to protecting user privacy and human rights such as freedom of speech”, adding that its moderators “cannot proactively patrol private groups”.

Of course Telegram is committed to free speech über alles. That’s much more important than the ongoing suffering of a lot of “tree rats.”

Humans just kind of suck.


  1. M'thew says

    Do not read this article

    Well, of course that makes me even more curious.
    But then again, I’d already read about this on the BBC website, after seeing a chyron about it on BBC World.
    But lowering my opinion of humanity? Nah.Just one more example of our shortcomings as a species. Horrible as this is, what’s new?

  2. René says

    I DID NOT READ IT. As to monky torture, I have hold hands with a six-year old orangutan girl. In a window-less room at the back of a Jakartan house. It broke my heart. Twenty years ago, it still haunts me that I couldn’t save her.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    As far as I am concerned, the humans who operate or pay for this activity have agreed to have their organs confiscated for the benefit of those who need transplants to survive.

  4. says

    The people who pay money to watch videos of monkeys being tortured are absolutely the sort of people who would pay good money to watch humans being tortured — or for the chance actually to torture a human being themselves.

  5. says

    I remember back in the early 2000s reading a People magazine article from a psychologist. This guy–and it was a guy–swore that the idea of animal abuse and violent crimes weren’t linked because “it’s very common among college aged men” and most of them “didn’t actually become serial murderers”. I remember thinking: “That just means damn near every human being on the planet is capable of being a violent asshole.”

    As always, my observations were correct and that psychologist was a hack at best.

  6. says

    @3: Agreed. But let’s not waste the anesthetic on them. They enjoy suffering so much, why not give them a front row seat?

    People wonder why I prefer living with just my husband and my cat…

  7. chrislawson says


    It’s true that McDonald’s triad does not have a strong empirical evidence base…but having said that, ‘not everyone who does this is a serial killer’ is about as low as low bars get.

  8. raven says

    I skimmed the article. It wasn’t my best idea today.

    FWIW, people who torture animals are also the type of people who will torture and kill people.

    Animal Cruelty Often Foreshadows Mass Shootings
    Carolina Tails Magazine

    Jan 5, 2023 — As reported by Time, Newsweek, ABC News, and many other media outlets, the 18-year-old Uvalde gunman posted videos of cats he had killed and he …
    For years, researchers have shown a direct correlation between violence toward animals and violence toward humans. › animal-cruelty-often-foresha…

  9. robro says

    When I saw the first few paragraphs of the OP, I thought PZ was getting into the latest story of the Catholic church protecting priests who torture children: Revealed: New Orleans archdiocese concealed serial child molester for years. But no, it’s another thicket of sick humans.

    I see they even have a derogatory term for monkeys…”tree rats”…which not only shows their disdain for monkeys, but rodents in general and specifically the true “tree rats,” aka squirrels.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    An extra layer of horror; there are people who have to watch at least some of these videos in order to identify and go after the scum who produce and consume them. People made of far sterner stuff than me. There’s not enough money in the world…

  11. says

    One major part of the problem here is that everyone takes it for granted that everything on the Internet should be available for free; which means that a lot of content providers can’t afford to hire enough people to police all the stuff posted on their platforms, even if they wanted to (and that business model consistently rewards people who just don’t want to). And even if we made certain content illegal, someone would still have to pay enough people to keep up with all the necessary vetting — so who would that be, and where would the money come from?

  12. wzrd1 says

    Telegram told us it was “committed to protecting user privacy and human rights such as freedom of speech”, adding that its moderators “cannot proactively patrol private groups”.

    OK, they’re right, they cannot proactively comply with the law. Retroactively prosecute Telegram and its parent corporations for criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice. During the case, seize all assets, especially their servers and databases as evidence.
    They lost safe harbor on three points, not the least of which is, Section 230 does not provide safe harbor to felonious activities, such as conspiracy. They’re relying upon the provision that if they do no patrolling, no moderation of any kind, that they’re automagically innocent and the language isn’t quite that clear. Especially given that Telegram does conduct moderation on other kinds of felonious violence.

    I’m also with Autobot Silverwynde @ 6 on this one.

  13. lotharloo says

    @Raging Bee:

    The problem is not that the videos are available for free. The problem is that they can be uploaded for free and by anyone and this is used as an excuse for lack of moderation. It is a business model that gives YT the maximum possible profit because it allows any kind of content to go viral. However, YT can easily change their setup such that to be able to upload videos, you have to provide something such as credit card info or some other approval mechanism.

  14. says

    lotharloo: That’s a good point. Perhaps platforms should be required to charge a fee for uploads (either per-file or per-megabyte), with a provision that if your upload violates their TOS or relevant laws, it’s vetoed with no refund.

    The downside of that would be that lots of people who want (or need) to upload worthwhile information (i.e., videos of police misconduct or protests against some tyrannical regime or actions, to name a couple) would be prevented from doing so, either because they can’t afford it, or because they can’t post anonymously, or because they can’t go through the payment hassle in the time they have. But platform owners might be able to mitigate that by having a “reputable uploader” tier of people and organizations who’ve shown a consistent pattern of not uploading illegal or demented trash.

  15. Kagehi says

    Honestly, I think Youtube moderation is another good example for why monopolies, especially driven by patents which are put in to purely stop anyone from competing at all, not just short term, is a terrible thing. Why can’t their moderators do a better job? Because they probably have a few thousands, but millions of accounts to check, and so a) they can’t have two or more sets of “unconnected” eyes cross checking each other, and b) 99% of their “moderation” isn’t even done by people. Heck, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if their “checking” something to see if its bad just meant feeding it through another, slightly different trained algorithm, to either “confirm” the prior one, or worse, just pick out a few bits of video to review, so the “moderators” don’t have to actually watch the whole thing.

    Case in point, the number of times one person I know has had their vids blocked, shadow banned, or otherwise marked as “porn”, despite them being fully clothed in the videos, and not even talking about the subject of nudity. The “algorithm” is so “fine tuned” to find offense at her videos now that she posts “anything” and it gets hammered, even when correctly marked, not set to monetization, and there is no way in hell a human can possibly be watching them to “verify” anything.

    And, like I said, we got here because Youtube is more or less the “only” place online that does what it does, everyone goes to, and is easy to use, the alternatives are a disaster, at best, and some of them are even more anal – linking to nude art will get one banning you, because its “linking to” porn, another will flip out and block content that has “implied nudity”, so.. no pixelation, black bars, or anything else that “suggests” the person might not be wearing something, even if its just a top.

    And don’t get me started on how much of a damn mess it is to use almost all Twitter alternatives, where just trying to figure out how to “get and account”, never mine flipping find anything after you have one, since its all so decentralized that you literally can’t search across so called instances. And that is just bloody stupid. Back in the day of stealing digital things you didn’t want to pay for “decentralized” systems, like napster, kazaa, etc. had a flipping “search feature”, as long as the bloody exchange(s) knew each other where online, and that you where, anything you “had” for availability was “visible” in the search. But things like Mastodon… apparently have no flipping clue each other’s “instances” exist at all, and you have to be led there, if you are not part of which ever “instance” the content you are looking for is on. Why? How the F does this make any sense as a design?

    But, yeah.. Not surprising this feldercarb ends up on Youtube, and they literally can’t kill it fast enough to keep of with new accounts, which just rehost it under a new name. There is one nutjob, who is a right wing psycho, who gets banned almost once a week, and is back almost immediately, with a new channel name, but the same insane, batshit, racist, terrorist agendas (and I mean literally advocating terrorism in the name of Jesus), and they can’t bloody seem to stop him, at all, not even for a few weeks. The system only works on people who do something by accident, have no idea what they did, or why it got them hit, and just give up because it not worth trying again, or for anyone who isn’t violating the literal intent of the bloody rules, but where either a host of assholes keep reporting them, or the “algorithm” is, by its literal nature, completely incapable of understanding what the rules actually are, and instead flags everyone with the word spaghetti in it, because someone trained it on videos in which some nutjob decided to use it as a code word for some horrible thing, and now everyone is assumed to be using it the same way. It doesn’t work for actual threats.

    Ugh.. Sorry about the rant, but.. seriously, how is none of this “fixable”, at least in terms of, “Lets make an alternative, with real people involved, is actually USABLE for the average person, and not keep making the same flipping mistakes.”?

  16. gijoel says

    This is fucked up. I hope everyone who is involved in this shit loses everything. Their houses, their bank account, their families, their friends.

  17. numerobis says

    Of course Telegram is committed to free speech über alles

    To be fair, they’re Russian in origin (they’ve since fled the country). They free speech uber alles stance means they refuse to take down posts that refute the Russian propaganda machine.

  18. Nemo says

    @20: I think it’s fairer to say that YouTube’s algorithm is meant to increase engagement… and doesn’t care how it gets there.

  19. says

    Rob Grigjanis @12 “An extra layer of horror; there are people who have to watch at least some of these videos in order to identify and go after the scum who produce and consume them. People made of far sterner stuff than me.”

    I don’t know about YouTube, but Facebook moderators definitely get PTSD.
    Content warnings galore for this link starting at just the second paragraph…

  20. silvrhalide says

    It’s a niche market on YouTube and the dark web, and in particular, Telegram, with it’s encrypted posts. People in places with lots of monkeys catch them, and then people in wealthy countries send them money with requests to do horrible things on video to them: hit them, stab them, drown them, decapitate them, throw them in a blender. By the way, these were all baby monkeys.

    Of course they’re all baby monkeys. An adult long-tailed macaque is a pretty even match for an adult human. They are smart, strategic fighters whose preferred targets are the eyes and genitals, which they will try to gouge or bite off first, then they will try to take out the hands, usually by biting off the fingers. They spit too, and they have good aim. They also use their prehensile tails like another hand and the move around and jump around when they fight and they are fast.

    All of which means that these monkeys were either orphans or their mothers were killed in order to take the infants. Trying to steal an infant monkey will generally bring the whole troop down on you, usually with bad results. For the infant-stealer anyway.

    BTW, the same people who pay money to do this to animals will also pay even more money to do this to kids.
    Yes, for real.
    Thanks to webcams, an event can now be staged & “requests” for actions taken against a trafficked child. They’re pretty much what you would see in the comments for this article, which to be clear, I did not read. I can only take so much.
    The IRS and DHS took out one ring and are working on taking out more. In some ways, crypto has been a dream come true for law enforcement.

    Just remember, everything that the commenters on the animal torture videos say and do are things that they want to do or will do to human children and adults. As raven pointed out, the Uvalde shooter had a history of animal abuse and killing. So did the Buffalo NY supermarket shooter. The link between serial killers and/or mass shooters and animal abuse/torture/killing is pretty extensively documented. Sure, you can argue that it’s circumstantial evidence but 1) there is a lot of it and 2) what kind of experiment were you planning on running to “prove” it under controlled conditions? Keep in mind that the actual crimes are not taking place in a lab but out in real world conditions, for anyone who would argue about invalid results & conclusions from empirical rather than laboratory data.

  21. anonymous3 says

    This seems like a great time to bring up my “humanity is performative” theory of morality. You can only act ethically towards ethical actors. And it’s only to the extent that someone is both willing and capable of behaving in an ethical way that determines how much of a human they are. This is easily demonstrated. It’s wrong to kill a person. It’s fine to kill someone who’s trying to kill you. Because in the attempt at killing you, they have made themselves inhuman and it’s fine to kill animals; that’s where we get meat from. You only get to be a full person by acting morally. The level of your moral actions determine how human you should be considered.