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 - animal testing rabbit

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!


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

  1. Sammie, Since I do know how sheep shearing is done, since I have met videographers who were hired to do “faked” animal abuse, I do know what I am talking about. Your dissing comment doesn’t convey facts, just support for the faked photos and videos…

  2. It makes NO difference – Animal testing goes on, animals are tortured every day. I don’t need real or false photos to tell me that. If a false photo convinces one person to avoid products tested on animals there’s zero harm in that. If you think false photos mean animal testing doesn’t happen then carry on living in your warped dreamland.

    1. One of the issues is that MOST products – or the base ingredients – are “tested” in animals before being released in products deemed safe for humans. So while a cosmetic company may say they don’t currently actively test in animals – they are standing on the shoulders of scientists who have approved the nearly 20,000 base ingredients. Our way of life rests on animal experiments.
      This article is trying to change the narrative about how we view animal testing – highlighting how certain animal rights organizations will bastardize images in order to serve their message. Not what is actually true and what goes on – but how they want you to see it.

  3. You say that L’Oreal doesn’t test on animals, and then you admit they do. What an interesting use of language!

    1. We have reported what L’oreal say – including where they say:
      ” 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.”

  4. I managed an animal shelter in past. I did not earn a huge salary. Not by a long shot. I took the job to help the animals, and I helped as many as I could. Trust me.. the salary didn’t cover the time I put into my job, nor did it properly compensate for all that I experienced. So I have little faith there is any merit at all in Foxfire505’s comment about the huge salaries earned. Fundraising was a necessary constant. Animal welfare and care is expensive. If you haven’t actually worked in the field, then your opinion is completely worthless, and misguided.

    1. Foxfire505, from my read of that comment, is talking about “huge salaries” in relation to organizations like PETA, HSUS, in his or her words “animal rights activist groups” and urging people to instead support local agencies and shelters. There’s lots of substantial proof about the non-charitability of organizations like HSUS and PETA, who tug on people’s heartstrings with images of cruelty, and help very very few animals in the big picture.

  5. Outrage addicts post this garbage for shock value — to see how many sad emojis and shares they can get. “Animal rights” activist groups post this crap so they can get your pity money. This money most likely will never help a single animal. It goes into paying staff members’ huge salaries. It goes into generating tear-jerking shock advertisements meant to generate more donations. If you are truly outraged by animal suffering, find a legitimate, local agency that fights cruelty in your area. Volunteer at a shelter. Adopt a stray. Most important of all, do your research. If you want to donate to a “charitable” cause, look up their financial statements. How much goes into the pockets of CEOs and employees? How much goes to helping actual animal, and where is the proof that it does? There is enough real cruelty in the world without having to spread fake clickbait.

  6. This technique of using real photos and changing the message is typical of the animal rights radicals. In other cases, they have paid videographers to video a cruel and abusive event, which the ARs have staged themselves! They then use these videos to persuade the public that xx cruelty is common among xx animal enterprises, from faked videos of sheep shearing where the sheep show bloody cuts, to faked videos of live skinning of fur animals (which would be very hard on the fur and on the worker…fur animals are killed prior to skinning). This kind of deception is easy to accomplish because most members of the general public have little experience with any type of animal enterprise, whether it is a farm, a breeding facility for dogs, or a research facility using hamsters.

    1. Yes, Laurella. PETA and HSUS have a huge warehouse somewhere “out west” that stages all of those horrible pics and videos that they post. All staged. All smoke and mirrors.
      Grow up.

      1. You would be amazed what those nut jobs are capable of. PITA euthanized more animals in a year than they saved!

  7. People really have it out for L’oreal, at work (a research lab) a co-workers FB friend shared a video of a macaque with what looked like horrendous mange in a dog crate. A dog crate! And they claimed it was in a research lab for L’oreal. Ha!

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