In the age of the internet, it is common to use platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to obtain information on topics we feel strongly about. But because not every writer is out there to support the greater good of balanced and informative reporting, we must be careful not to believe that everything we read is true. With the idea of “fake news” circulating through America in current times, it is important we remember that fake news is not exclusive to politics or economic concerns. Fake news is a very real and serious threat to the zoological world, and the main fake news website in the anti-zoological movement is The Dodo.
The Dodo is known for its adorable animal videos that show up as sponsored posts on Facebook, as well as clickbait articles that strike an emotional chord with users with attention grabbing titles such as, “Whale Dies At SeaWorld After Spending 50 Years In A Tank.” To analyze the tactics that the Dodo uses (such as manipulating information or just plain lying) to sway readers against top zoo facilities such as Seaworld, let us delve into the aforementioned piece about a whale that died at Seaworld in 2016.
Bubbles the pilot whale.
The article begins with a very emotional statement: “Yet another animal dies at Seaworld.” When the reader’s’ attention is grabbed by this statement, an emotional connection is already established. But when looking deeper into this statement, we can see that there is no logic behind it. The wording implies that animals die at Seaworld constantly. The reader has no way of knowing how frequently or how many have died, nor in what time frame. This is also illogical because it implies that animals do not die anywhere else, which when reworded in that way, is revealed to be a ludicrous statement.
As we read in the next paragraph, Bubbles the whale is the sixth animal to die since July of 2015 at Seaworld. But the public reading this article might not know that Seaworld is not just one place, but rather three. And the fact that Seaworld houses thousands of animals in their parks goes unstated.
The article goes on to say that animals that live in human care will never know true freedom and will spend their lives being forced to perform for their human captors. But there is nothing to support these statements and there are no sources to confirm that animals other than humans can even grasp the concept of freedom or free will. While the article tries to present the history of Bubbles’ life, there are no sources provided for that information and we also know nothing about the writer or her credibility.
There is also no explanation of the the causes of death surrounding the other animals mentioned. When the death of a baby beluga whale is brought up, the author conveniently leaves out that beluga whales in the wild have a troubling calf mortality rate, with certain populations being “below the replacement level necessary for recovery…” (Hobbs, Sims, Brattström, and Rugh, Annual calf indices for beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in Cook Inlet, Alaska). Any “evidence” the article provides for its’ statements about Seaworld’s practices or about the mental state of captive marine mammals due to a lack of freedom are written in blue and lead to other articles from The Dodo.
Beluga whale calf at Seaworld San Antonio.
This article (and nearly every other article on the website) provides little to no logical evidence to support its claims, establishes no credibility and no character, and relies purely on emotion to sway its readers. It is a reminder to us all that the friendly and innocent articles and videos we see about animals on social media aren’t always as well-intentioned as they seem, and could even be harming animals by falsely accusing institutions that treat their animals right of animal abuse.