Thursday, September 11, 2014

How Important Is Credibility as an Advocate for Animals?

Online advocacy for animals is a powerful way to help animals in need of homes, stop cruelty to animals, and more. But how important is credibility as an online advocate for animals? If you see a random tweet showing an image of supposedly abused animals, how likely are you to share it? Are you going to make sure the image is real first? Imagery in the form of a photograph is a powerful and convincing tool.

Photo via Dave Parker

I for one am really not a huge fan of the gruesome pictures some animal advocates share to make their point to the public. It may be effective for some, but it's just not something I prefer to look at all day long. With that being said, this post does contain some images that could be disturbing to some. They are definitely not the worst I've ever seen, but sharing them in this post is critical to make my point. 

What I've noticed lately is an abundance of images displaying false information to make a point in the realm of online animal advocacy. As an example, I'm sure you're all aware of the Heineken debacle that happened a few years back.


This image blew up on social media claiming that Heineken sponsored dog fighting. I was never convinced. What company in their right mind would actually sponsor a dog fight? The dog fight in this photo took place in a night club in Mongolia. The night club never took down the Heineken signs before the fight took place. 

A few months ago, I was on Twitter and saw someone tweet the image below claiming that this was a cosmetic laboratory testing their products on animals. In fact, when I searched for the image again to write this post I see that it shows up in several articles that make the same claims about the photo. That it's a picture of cats being tortured in a cosmetic testing lab. 


When I saw the image in the tweet, I immediately questioned it. To me, it looked like a bunch of cats being spayed at a shelter. And that is in fact what it is REALLY a picture of. Cats are undergoing spay and neuter surgeries at the University of Florida. 

It does look deceiving to the untrained eye, I will admit. But if you're doing surgery on an animal, they need to be properly restrained so they aren't rolling all over the place during the procedure. 

Finally, yesterday I saw an image to go with a petition to stop Bear Baiting in South Carolina. This was actually what prompted me to write this post. At first, the image doesn't seem too strange. But if you look closely at the people in the background, do they honestly look like they are from South Carolina? I mean, I hate making assumptions like that but I'm sorry - I just don't think so. 


Sure, the image does display Bear Baiting. But it doesn't convince me that the issue is in South Carolina. 

I am not trying to say that dog fighting, lab testing on animals, and bear baiting are things that aren't important and that we should just ignore them. My point is that if you want me to "like", share, +1, etc. your online protests against these things and trust you as an animal advocate, you really need to make sure your information is credible first. 

After seeing so many false statements by animal advocates online through the use of imagery, how am I supposed to believe them as a whole in the future? So how important is credibility as an advocate for animals? To me, especially now, extremely important. What do you think?

40 comments:

  1. I understand, Anne. It's a wrong way to use this pictures that way. It destroys the credibility. And for me this is important too. I don't want to pick holes in every argument and I don't like to challenge the tenets of every campaign I see... it's sad that some people who probably have honorable intentions gamble away all credibility by using false informations or pictures. And at the end the animals have to pay the price when no one want's to join a campaign or to sign a petition...

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    1. I think that for me, it's mostly the people who are just blindly sharing these things because everyone else is. It doesn't make them look very smart. I don't want the animals to pay the price. There are so many naive people out there believing stuff like this anyways that they already get tons of shares, which is where the problem is I guess.

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    2. no its not i'm 45 now & 4 the last 30 yrs iv'e been doing everything posiable 2 help stop it make up 4 instance a rabbit with big red eye cause its been tested on 4 what? just 4 basket cases like u 2 b able 2 ware it! & no i have never wore it. u should not b a writer on this as u dont understand. all the animal sites out there dont make these pics up itd b sick 2 do so. get ur facts right b4 writing anything

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    3. I'm sorry Rose, I'm not sure exactly what you are talking about within this post but if you are talking about the cat spay photo it is IN FACT NOT a lab testing on animals. That is what a "mass spay" looks like in a shelter. The cats are anesthetized, restrained, and all properly sterilized for surgery. I have my facts right. I searched to prove that the photo is a cat spay. I am not saying that animal testing is right at all. It just bugs me when people pass things off as truth when they are not. Here's a link that you can read. http://speakingofresearch.com/2014/02/27/fact-into-fiction-why-context-matters-with-animal-images/

      It makes me sad that so many people are wrongfully accusing these veterinary students that are actually helping the animals of being cosmetic lab testers. Shame on them. Also, you probably shouldn't be a writer either. Maybe after you learn spelling and grammar.

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    4. Ann you are right on the money with that Spay/neuter photo. That was my first thought when I saw this photo. The rescue I volunteer at Angels of Assisi looks exactly like this photo on spay/neuter days. As far as being an animal advocate we do not allow any of these photos or negative things to be shared on our Deaf Dogs Rock FB page because we want our community members to feel like rescuing, fostering and adopting deaf dogs are good things and getting everyone worked up on photos that show torture (usually in third world countries) doesn't do anything to help the dogs we advocate for. It does just the opposite it drives people away. Great post Ann Staub!

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  2. I agree with you Ann, but I would even go a step further. This doesn't just apply to animal advocates - it applies to EVERYONE who shares something without first verifying its accuracy. Just because someone posts something on Facebook does not mean it's accurate and you should just blindly share it. I can't count the number of times I've seen people click the "share" button and post things that are inaccurate and sometimes blatantly false, when all it takes is 2 minutes to do a little research and get the facts for yourself. Before you share ANYTHING, make sure it's true because I won't hesitate to embarrass you by commenting with a link to the Snopes article that you could've found if you'd just taken a moment to check.

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    1. The blind sharing is the big problem Christina. And this does apply to everyone, you're right. For the cat spay photo, I spent no more than 5 minutes verifying that it was not cosmetic laboratory animal testing. This is just a big pet peeve for me I guess.

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    2. I agree with Christina. I've probably been guilty of sharing or believing something I shouldn't have, but I try to be careful now. I have a couple of FB friends who share anything inflammatory, and when I now check a lot of it turns out to be untrue. It's become a pet peeve of mine as well.
      Christina, I think it's great that you don't hesitate to correct people. There's enough bad stuff going on in the world, and things we should genuinely worry about, without fabricating things just to scare and upset people.

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    3. Jan, if I call someone out for sharing something that's inaccurate, I try to do it in a polite way, but I do for exactly the reason you stated - there's enough bad stuff in the world already. We don't need more, especially if it's not true. And sometimes those inaccuracies that are flying around hurt the good work we're trying to do, so people need to understand and stop it.

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  3. wow Ann. WHat a great post! You have really made me think. When I see animal abuse claims and pictures, I instantly feel enraged and don't stop to think it may not be real. I have also seen that cat picture floating around, and had no idea they were simply undergoing normal surgery.
    Thank you for an eye opening post!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

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    1. Thanks Jenna. I question almost everything these days... if I see a photo of an abused dog, am I to believe that it really was abused or just hit by a car? Maybe it's just me, because I do the same thing when I hear stories about "my dog ate such and such and dropped dead 30 minutes later". Those people go on to start campaigns to try and bring that company down, but they still don't have evidence because they declined the necropsy for their dog. When I hear the word "dropped dead" I think heart condition. I know everyone means well, but going into something blindly to me is just not intelligent if you want to have a good reputation and help save animal's lives.

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    2. Mom Kim from Team Beaglebratz here - that point that you make here about a dog "dropping dead" or in some cases getting "violently" ill is a big thing I wonder about. My immediate thought is :Are you telling me that dog has not eaten ANYTHING except the product that supposedly caused the dog to die? And then to either not want or not have a necropsy done for factual evidenxe to me says the owner is doubting his/her claim anyway. Maybe it was some kind of interaction between two products; maybe it was an interaction between the accused product and something the dog ate while outside. To me - there are often to many variables involved. Now I know there are a few cases where there is no doubt the product caused the death but let's look for real proof before trying to destroy a company.

      And about those images and credibility; especially on Facebook - I have been using Snopes.com more and more - something my computer-geek brother got me to doing when because he was getting so much spam emails. And I don't share everything that comes through to me just for the sake of sharing - I usually skim over those gruesome pictures. I try to be mindful of what my readers see - I have learned some of their habits through their comments or lack thereof I don't want to alienate my readers because of sharing too much of what they don't want to see. And yes, credibility can be affected by sharing too much of the wrong thing.

      This was an excellent post and I am glad you shared your thoughts here. I too have wondered about some of those so called "real" images.

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    3. Wow I thought I may have been the only person who thought that way with those things... actually, when I see the cases of animals suddenly dying I don't even think of a particular food, poison, or product. Those things take time to do their dirty work. I mentioned it above, but heart conditions always come to mind. I haven't really used Snopes before, but sounds like it could be a very useful tool. Thank you.

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  4. Credibility is all there is and if I don't believe you once then I will never believe you.

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  5. Excellent post. People tend to believe what they want to believe and set themselves up to become gullible. Being credible when talking about animals lives is very important.

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  6. Great post and I agree, it's always best to know the whole story before sharing the photo and your opinion.

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  7. Thank you for bringing up this topic. It seems that if one loves animals, others expect you to be a rabid animal rights protester. And, yes I do believe that animal cruelty is inexcusable. But, I'm so glad to see someone take a stand on the ridiculous propaganda that's out there. This is a brave article on an issue that is silenced by an extreme animal rights movement. How can one fight animal cruelty when people are always lumping cosmetics testing with medical science testing?

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    1. Thank you for your comment Betsy. This post is a little bit out of my comfort zone since I am not usually writing about topics like this. But the bear photo yesterday just hit something with me yesterday. I really do commend those who put so much time and effort into trying to save animals' lives. It's just not a method that's very popular with me. If that was all that was in my social media feed all day everyday, it would be a pretty depressing life.

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  8. Great post ! It applies to everything on social media : blind sharing is big problem. Part of media education here at school is about picture reading, but it's far not enough ! Purrs

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    1. That sounds really interesting actually... I don't think I've ever heard of that before!

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  9. I've been guilty of posting photos and stories and than been corrected I tend to react before thinking, thank you for a great post I will try and slow down and take notice instead of jumping in with both feet.

    Sheba.

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    1. Thanks Ian. I'm sure it happens to the best of us.

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  10. Ann; this in a sense, goes along the same lines that shelters make to the public to garner donations...in that they use photos of "abused" animals to play upon the heartstrings to GET donations. To me, this is a turn off... and exactly what happens, the channel gets flipped, the ad page gets turned and in the end, no donation is forthcoming. I ask myself why they didn't improve the appearance of said animal, or show pictures of those ready to go to their forever home; tails wagging etc. Sadly in the electronic age we live in, everything and anything can be photo shopped, cropped, or digitally enhanced and with out running to Snopes every 5 minutes, one is left wondering who and what to believe anymore.

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    1. I feel the same way about those sort of commercials. Showing pictures of abused animals every now and again might be OK, but I get tired of the people who just do it nonstop just because they feel bad for the animals. We all do. But there are more creative ways to showcase these animals and garner donations for your organization. I just don't trust any of these photos anymore...

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  11. Such a great post. No matter what the cause is credibility should be the foundation. It makes me sad that some people for whatever reason spread false information to gain more attention. In the end it just makes the others in the same niche, group, or campaign look bad. Blind sharing is definitely bad; it just adds to the unintentional consequence of having to question everything. Thank you for sharing this.

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  12. Great post and I think you have a very valid point. We like in most things should not believe everything we see or read. We know these things happen and there are many well know good charities that try and help. They should deserve are attention. Have a terrific Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

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    1. I think people are just too gullible these days I guess Molly.

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  13. Good point - there's enough 'bad stuff' out there to make your point without inflating it - you loose your credibility that way and then everyone suffers. Good post.

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  14. I understand many animals are in bad conditions, but I really get tired of being blasted with homeless pets, abused animals, and the like all the time. It is just a bit too much. I feel bad for all these animals, but I don't think this sad blasting really helps, and I don't appreciate the nasty TV commercials either.

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    1. Totally agree Emma. I'm unlikely to follow a person. But one of my top reasons for unfollowing someone is constant posting of abused animals. I'm sorry but let's get creative about it. I don't need to look at these things all day.

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  15. I am with you 100%. I have seen some photos on Pinterest that I have doubts about. I never repost or tweet those images. Thanks for speaking up about it.

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    1. I also never repost abused animal photos, with the exception of this blog post for which it was important to make my point. It's just not the approach I'd like to take with helping animals. There are more positive ways to go about it.

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  16. I've unfortunately had to remove a handful of people off of my Twitter because I just can't deal with seeing graphic images as the ones that were being posted.

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    1. Same here April. I wonder if these people have a hard time keeping their following up?

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  17. very true people should check things out first before doing these posts,xx Rachel

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  18. This is an important topic, and I'm so glad you wrote about it. I am highly skeptical of almost everything I read online, see on TV, etc., whether it's about pets or just about any other topic. People see things on Facebook and then they start sharing it as fact when it often isn't.

    Your example with the dog food companies that you mentioned in one of your comments is a good one. We can't jump to conclusions so quickly, no matter what the topic is. There are always two sides to the story.

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    1. Well, it's not just the food companies either. I could probably write a whole other blog post on that topic but I'm sure I'd ruffle more feathers than I'd like to :)

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  19. You are so right. People take things and twist it to make their own "truth". It is a very good idea to research something before you comment on it or share it. The spaying and neutering one, my gosh! How completely misleading that was.

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    1. It is totally misleading! If you had no idea what a typical cat spay looked like and I showed you that image and said it was animal abuse, you would probably believe me. I just happened to see and though "that looks like a cat spay..." and went from there. A lot of these images just seem to misleading to me.

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  20. This blows my mind and is timely too, since I just read on FB yesterday about a family that has received death threats after someone posted a photo of their dogs, claiming they were left out in the cold without shelter, food, or water. Police and Animal Services investigated multiple times and guess what? The photo omitted the heated doghouses, each with food and water inside. The family actually SAVED two dogs scheduled to be euthanized at a shelter. The FB post was from the local police, asking people to repost to help clear the family's name. I would have believed the cat spay photo was of cosmetic testing since I've never seen that many animals in one room for surgery. Thank you because I'll be a lot more wary now. Also I don't like the grotesque abuse images either, but I do like the stories of happy endings, where the stray is rescued and then you see them later in their home after grooming and medical care. Good luck with BlogPaws! I think your post deserves to win.

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