Reports of animal cruelty filmed and shared on Snapchat have soared 340 per cent in two years, according to the RSPCA. Researchers at the charity say children are behind the majority of incidents distributed on the platform, which include graphic images of animal torture.

Videos shared on the app include a squirrel being burned alive, a goldfish having its eyes cut out and a fox cub being attacked. In some of the footage, people can be heard laughing in the background. The RSPCA received 27 complaints of animal abuse on Snapchat, rising to 69 last year, according to figures gathered by the charity and first reported by Sky. So far this year, there have been 119 reports, a rise of 340 per cent on 2015.

“It’s as shocking as it is disturbing and what’s really saddening is that this abuse is mostly being committed by children,” an RSPCA researcher who gathers evidence for prosecution, told the broadcaster. “These children are then sharing the videos and pictures with their peers. Some days it’s very difficult to get those images out of my head.”

Snapchat condemned the abuse in a statement, saying: “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.”