The RSPCA have condemned a "disturbing" trend among young people to film themselves torturing animals after figures show the number of reports of abuse being shared on Snapchat has soared by 340%.
Children setting fire to a squirrel, a fish having its eyes gouged out and a sheep being beaten to death with a golf club are among some of the horrific examples of animal abuse that have been broadcast and shared via Snapchat.
The animal charity said so far this year, they have received 119 reports of animals being abused on Snapchat, up from 69 last year and 27 in 2015.
The RSPCA's Special Operations Unit (SOU) said they fear the social media platform makes the people creating the videos and images feel "invincible and untraceable" because the posts disappear after 10 seconds.
An RSPCA intelligence researcher, who cannot be named as they work undercover to gather evidence for prosecution, said: "What's even more concerning than the 340% increase in reports of videos of animal cruelty on Snapchat in just two years, is the level of cruelty being seen.
"While many of these videos show acts of animal cruelty that are at the lower end of severity – such as teenagers chasing geese or throwing stones at birds – a worrying number of them show serious acts of brutality."
The RSPCA released images of a squirrel being hit by a stone then set on fire to the sound of children laughing to highlight the issue, with the charity saying many films are too disturbing to be made public.
The officer added: "When you consider that Snapchat is particularly popular with children and young teenagers, it's particularly troubling that they could easily be witnessing animals being beaten, tortured and even killed in graphic detail.
"Not only are young people seeing these heinous acts but, most of the time, it is also young people who are witnessed in the videos carrying out these sickening incidents or are often the ones who share them."
The figures arrive after an animal sanctuary in Kent told how three youths broke and filmed themselves pulling their goat, Nathan, by the horns onto an electric fence and "tormenting him".
Hopefield Animal Sanctuary uploaded photos onto Facebook of three men they suspect to have been responsible for the abuse and vandalism, and are asking for help in identifying them.
A spokesperson for Snapchat said: "This sort of cruelty is illegal and should never be broadcast on Snapchat. We encourage anyone who sees something like this anywhere to always report it."