A fifth of local secondary schoolchildren have witnessed animal cruelty and neglect on social media.
A shocking new report by the RSPCA reeveals that large numbers of 11 to 18-year-olds are being exposed to horrific incidents of animal suffering online in ways previous generations have simply not experienced.
The animal welfare charity reports that it sees nearly 5,000 incidents of cruelty and neglect on social media reported to it each year, more than 700 of which are in the North West.
There were 325 cases in Greater Manchester in 2016 and while this fell slightly to 296 the following year it was still the biggest number by far in the region.
In response, the RSPCA is launching Generation Kind - its biggest ever education and prevention programme aimed at children - and has launched a petition calling for animal welfare to be taught in all schools.
A new poll by the charity also revealed 75 per cent of people in the North West say that animal welfare should be taught in schools.
Chief Executive Chris Sherwood said: “The number of children seeing animal abuse online is shocking - the current generation of children are witnessing horrifying animal cruelty and neglect through channels which simply didn’t exist for previous generations.
“The risk for children growing up in the 21st century is that frequent and casual exposure to animal abuse will desensitise them and may even make it seem acceptable. Animals need us now more than ever and we want to grow a new generation of young people who care, who are informed and who want to do their best for animals.
“This is why we are launching Generation Kind - an ambitious education programme targeting school children, children in care, young offenders or those at risk of offending and other disadvantaged young people. Central to this is a new campaign to get animal welfare taught in all schools.”
Teaching animal welfare would ensure children develop key life skills, including compassion and empathy, as well as respect for animals and a basic understanding of how to care for them.
The RSPCA also believes animal welfare could make a significant contribution to young people’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, which all schools must promote.
Mr Sherwood added: “This is the most important campaign we have ever undertaken. We are fighting animal abuse and neglect every day but we can only do so much.”