Daily Archives: May 16, 2017

Context matters: How a veterinary image became “cruel animal testing”

Recently, a photo depicting a rabbit with pretty serious hair loss was tweeted by an image sharing Twitter account, and then retweeted over 4,300 times. The photo appears quite shocking, and the post by the Twitter account reflected that.

Uber_Pix has written, in all caps: “NEVER WANTED A PIC TO SPREAD MORE IN MY LIFE”. The image is a screenshot of a post with comments from Tumblr, where the user “the_vegan_mothership” writes:

“This is a bunny at L’oreal lab. L’oreal does a lot of cruel needless animal testing. Please don’t buy products made by L’oreal. The more products they sell, the more animals are tortured.”

Twitter users saw this image and were shocked. Many upset responses resulted:

The problem with the shared image is that the origin is just not true. The image is definitely that of a rabbit suffering from hair loss, but the image comes from a Florida veterinary clinic’s website. The image was posted to the clinic website to illustrate some of the cases they have dealt with in rabbits and other less common mammalian pets that the clinic sees.

Click image to go to page

The rabbit is suffering from an ear mite infection, caused by the parasite Psoroptes cuniculi. The rabbit in the photo actually appears to be on the (long) road to recovery, as the commonly seen thick scales usually present in an infection that has spread this badly have cleared up. When an ear mite infection goes untreated, it can easily spread to the neck, abdomen, and limbs, as seen with this rabbit.

Ear mites in rabbits are commonly treated with a potent but effective drug called Ivermectin, which kills the mites as they take blood meals from the treated host. Ivermectin itself is a fascinating drug, discovered by an international team of scientists, working with isolates from Japanese soil microorganisms. While Ivermectin is a very commonly used antiparasitic medication in veterinary medicine, it is also considered a “wonder drug” in human medicine, improving the lives of millions of people in the developing world who suffer from neglected tropical diseases.

When shocking images such as this one appear, it is very easy to get caught up in the emotion of the moment and want to react and share with your social media circles. However, it is important that we try our best to check sources, look for the origins of a photo, or get a second opinion. This rabbit image has been making its rounds on the internet since 2013, with the claims that the rabbit is a “victim” of animal testing. L’Oreal even responded to the claim, stating that they no longer test their products, or ingredients on animals, and that they do not contract the testing out to other facilities, either. The exception being for parts of the world where such testing is mandated by law (e.g. China). However, they are also actively working with nations where testing is required by law, in order to find suitable alternatives.

Keep in mind as well, what the real purpose is of Twitter accounts such as @Uber_Pix. These image “scrapers” actively take images and videos off of social media, strip the credit from them, and re-upload them in order to gain as much traffic, subscribers, and click-through as possible. Why do they do this? To spam subscribers with ads, to sell stuff. Don’t give them the time of day.

This is not the first time we have seen images repurposed to tell a story fitting the animal rights agenda. In 2014, we noticed a picture of cats tied to boards was being described as animal testing when in fact it was cats being prepared for spay and neuter in order to be adopted out.

This picture was used to misrepresent animal research

In both cases, thousands of internet users have been tricked by someone who is willing to lie to create a false case against animal research. Next time you see an image criticizing “cruel animal testing”, try to find the original image source, and make sure you’ve got the full context of the picture before you click to retweet!

Christine