Fact into Fiction – Why Context Matters with Animal Images

A curious thing happened recently. The following picture of “animal testing” surfaced on Twitter and was retweeted over five thousand times (and counting) over the course of one week.

Twitter retweet no to animal testing

It runs with a message “Retweet if you say NO to animal testing. #Animalrights”. The message has been recurring on Twitter for some time, though its latest iteration has seen it tweeted thousands of times in just a few days. Many tweeters added their own messages of disgust.

cat tweets on animal testing

Unfortunately, for the thousands of people who retweeted it, this isn’t an example of “animal testing” at all. The picture originally appeared in an article by the Gainesville Sun – “Seized cats being readied for adopt-a-thon” with the caption “University of Florida vet school students and veterinarians work to spay and neuter cats as part of Operation Cat Nip on Wednesday.”

cat animal testing image

The story details how Alachua County Animal Services, along with US animal rescue groups, seized 697 cats on June 7 2011 from Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary in High Springs, Florida. Owners Steve and Pennie Lefkowitz described the sanctuary as a no-kill facility for unwanted felines. The Humane Society of the United States described it as the largest case of cat hoarding in the nation.

Several cats were sick with feline leukaemia and similar serious diseases and were put down. More than 300 needed to be spayed or neutered, and that is what is happening in this picture. The cats are under anaesthetic and are being operated on as quickly as possible in an emergency situation.

Why the picture, taken in 2011, has resurfaced, no-one knows. It is now watermarked with “Cause animal Nord”. In this picture’s travels across the internet it has been stripped of its original context and stamped with a new one. Somewhere along the line activists have decided this image could be recycled to misleadingly drive support for their cause.

Of course, this case of Telephone (Chinese Whispers) wouldn’t work without the thousands of internet users who have been duped into believing this lie. The irony is that animal lovers have been made to feel angry about an animal rescue, leading them to call for an end to the research that gave us the veterinary medicines the animals needed.



We have found that this story has been uncovered before.

The cats were seized on June 7, 2011 from Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary in Florida. The owners described the sanctuary as a no-kill facility for unwanted cats, but poor conditions led authorities to remove the cats and put them up for adoption.

Here is another picture of the surgery suite where you can see the clean and professional conditions which veterinarians are working in to spay and neuter these cats.

Cat Not Animal Testing Spay and Neuter

To learn more about the role of animal research in advancing human and veterinary medicine, and the threat posed to this progress by the animal rights lobby, follow us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/SpeakingofResearch

37 thoughts on “Fact into Fiction – Why Context Matters with Animal Images

  1. ^As a volunteer with this organization, we use only injectable anesthetics and all staff (easily over 50 people) are trained to monitor the cats breathing and heart rate as they are transferred from station to station. We also have an emergency station for animals that have trouble breathing, staff veterinarians, etc. These cats are not left alone while they are under the anesthetic effects of the drugs and are watched closely. In the two years of spay days that I have volunteered for, i can remember losing three cats total (typically we spay between 160-300 cats at each event). In the story above, the cats were being prepped for an adopt-a-thon after being taken from a hoarding situation with deplorable conditions. The majority of this organization’s work is with community cats and is a community run trap-neuter-release program – all of the cats that are brought to us in traps by people in the community are returned to their temporary care takers and are released back into their colonies / environment within a day or two.

  2. It’s a shame that this photo was used with wrong contexts. I didn’t know how it could be animal testing because everything look to calm and clean, but even for their good purpose, the lack of personnel to monitor the cats was obvious. Unfortunate, we do always need more volunteers helping in the rescuing and healthy treatments of animals. I believe that all research/testing for medicine or products for humans should be done on human volunteers, period! If a living being is needed. Science is advanced enough now that no animal or human is needed to do the testing…the entire medical field needs to rethink it’s moral code.

  3. Reblogged this on Buseca and commented:
    Dovrei tradurlo, ma spero che tutti gli animalisti abbiano studiato abbastanza inglese da capire che molti loro isterici sodali sono degli emeriti imbecilli a strillare contro delle inesistenti vivisezioni.
    Questi gatti li sterilizzano prima di darli in adozione. Non li stanno scuoiando vivi per poi venderli ai ristoranti cinesi.
    I cinesi gatti e cani se li macellano da sè e senza tutta quella igiene.

  4. Am I the only person who remembers the disgusting, graphically violent “comic book” named “your mommy murders bunny rabbits” that PETA published a few years back and handed out on the street to 6 and 7 year olds? PETA as an organization is a vile, repulsive bunch of lying psycho’s who’d rather kill a pet than allow it to have a loving home.

  5. Shari, the fact that the photo is now watermarked with “Cause animal Nord” mitigates against it being “an honest mistake.”

  6. It is also very unfortunate that now those who try to deny the actual abuses that happen to animals have fuel to further mislead that these acts don’t occur. Who knows where this mistake came from – right away some want to blame PETA for deliberately trying to mislead. This could be the honest mistake of an individual who posted it in horror of what they mistook it for and it just took off! And cruel, horrid testing on animals DOES go on…everyday!

  7. Yes people are this dense, they will believe anything they are told to believe. Harvard speaker just announced that “Free speech is dangerous”…. anyone ever read “1984”?

    1. I think it is about time we bring that book back and make it mandatory reading for everyone. Anyone? It’s been 30 years, I wonder how much really came to fruition and what is yet to be…..

  8. Douglas, I agree lying about this photo is wrong, and that it’s unfortunately in line with what certain animal rights groups do all the time, but how exactly is it detrimental to the actual cause of people like those in the photo? It’s not like being exposed to an inaccurate emotional argument against animal experimentation will somehow turn people against spay and neuter operations.

    1. I would like to see some actual facts to back that up…
      And your logic going from people being naive and having a knee-jerk reaction to a picture taken out of context equating them to psychopaths is interesting.

  9. Lesson here: Don’t believe everything on Twitter, or any other social media site, is accurate. It amazes me how often this kind of thing happens, and how often people are ‘duped.’

  10. Outrageous! Yet another case of animal rights activists using their twisted agenda to the detriment of the people who actually care enough to do something productive and worthwhile.
    Their emotive language, irrational arguments, blatant lies and holier than thou attitude make me furious!

  11. “Dr.” this is a high-volume, high-speed operation with the goal of sterilizing as many animals as possible in a short amount of time. In balancing top-quality care with speed and cost, it appears they have opted to go with injectable-only anesthetic, no tubes, and minimal monitoring. I would bet that the VAST majority of these kitties did fine. I know vets who do missions work in developing countries and do surgeries like this (and often in a dirty environment). They have few, if any, anesthetic complications or infections. Not to sound callous, but with this number of cats, even if they lost a couple under anesthesia due to sub-optimal protocol, the fact that they were able to spay/neuter dozens if not hundreds of animals in one day would be worth it.

    1. As one who has volunteered with this program and in this exact location, I can tell you that losing one cat during these procedures is a rare occurrence, and that is during a 150-200 feral cat spay day.

  12. It is completely in line with PETA thinking that something dark is going on here, because all they do at their shelters is kill the cats and then dump them in the garbage! To them, spaying and neutering is the same as vivisection is the same as research with animals.
    Yep, they ARE twisted, sick minds

    1. Leo, PETA runs a mobile spay and neuter clinic that fixes over 10,000 animals a year, most for free. This past Tuesday they held a 24 hour spay and neuter event and fixed over 400 animals for less than $25 a piece. They are against animal testing, of course, but Gainesville was clearly doing something wonderful here. Stop throwing the PETA name around.

      1. Maria – any feral or timid cat that comes through Peta’s doors goes out in a plastic trash bag. Ingrid Newkirk isn’t shy about saying all feral cats should be killed outright and that is probably what Leo is thinking of. The cats that came out of this situation were not well socialized so Peta would have killed them. They also refuse to spay/neuter rottweilers, bull dogs and Dobermans which is perfectly in line with Newkirk’s dislike for certain breeds.

      2. You are so far out in left field about peta that you can’t even see home plate. Peta has one goal and that is to end all animal owmership and turn us all into vegans like they are. They want to end all meat eating or the use of animal parts in any way shape or form. Before my lasy comp when down for the count I had an article about how they pick up animals and tell people that the will get a good home and then kill them in their van and dump them into the nearest dumpster. Peta uses hired thugs to terrorize researchers and to break into peoples homes and release their animals. Many hobby bird breeders won’t give their name or address because of their fear of these thugs. They will meet you in another town if you want to pick a bird but never allow you to get near their homes because of the actions of peta. When they release animals they don’t care what the weather is like or even if the animals will be able to find food and water to survive. I wish I could hit the lottery. Then I would put an end to them and other ilk by putting the truth out there in a way that would force the IRS to remove their tax exempt status forever more and to show what their supporters are like. By doing this maybe the decent movie and recording artists would show what they are like by refusing to allow them to use their recordings or speaking out for them. Those that would allow them to use these things would be shunned by decent people and no longer find work or sales for their products. Peta does very little in the way of helping animals with the money they get. When they do something they tend to make a big production of it to help hid what they really are.

      3. Pfftt. I lived in the city with Peta headquarters my whole life, and the stories I could share from former volunteers and employees. And they most certainly aren’t about helping animals. Peta plays Devils advocate when it comes to pet ownership. They’ll help you spay and neuter, but really they’d rather end all animal suffering and confinement. Even if it means killing them.

  13. If people want to believe anything, they will. It is so sad that a project to spay/neuter cats for adoption is twisted into such a diametrically opposite activity. SHAME! RWT

  14. I have never spayed a cat in my life and immediately knew what was happening here. Are people really this dense?

    1. I think gullible or reactionary is more like it. With the attitude today of “react now, investigate later” things like this will continue to happen. It also does not help to have organization like peta, hsus and the like digging this media up, stripping it of it’s true origin and then using it for their own nefarious per purposes.

  15. As a vet who volunteers often at feral cat spay neuter clinics I recognized this setup immediately. The boards are only used once the cats are anesthetized, have had physicals, and have been prepped for surgery. They don’t cause any discomfort and enable us to move cats efficiently and safely from prep to surgery, and back to recovery. They also help us maintain a surgical field that is clear of cat fur to reduce the risk of infections.

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