Social Changes, Communication Channels, and Media Create New Challenges for Institutions with Animals in Professional Care
Animal care experts in zoological institutions around the globe are increasingly subject to public scrutiny and even criticism as activist groups that oppose the public display of animals intensify their campaigns to influence public opinion. Critics of zoos and aquariums are using social media campaigns and content such as the documentary “Blackfish” to reach key audiences like educators, students and elected officials and encouraging the public to oppose keeping animals in zoos and aquariums and marine parks.
This rapid culture change influences the need for veterinarians to take an active role in communicating about their work. Heightened public interest in animals and their welfare is leading to veterinarians in zoos and aquariums being increasingly called upon to talk publicly about animal welfare issues, animal care practices, veterinary treatment and euthanasia.
Today, institutions are asking their veterinarians to be key spokespersons with print, broadcast and social media (such as in web blogs or in videos on YouTube) on topics that include animal deaths, which until the mid-1990s were generally not of interest to media. Also, veterinarians are being interviewed by reporters, many who are more closely scrutinizing the care and welfare of zoo and aquarium animals.1 Veterinarians can best prepare to navigate these changes by understanding the issues and knowing how to communicate about their critical work that ensures animal wellbeing and quality care.
1. Allread J, Hilsenroth R. Culture and media shifts: challenges and opportunities for veterinarians. In: Miller RE, Fowler ME, eds. Fowler’s Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine: Current Therapy. Volume 7. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2012:71–77.