Compassion Fatigue and Stopping the Violence

A photo seen here that attributes a quote to Johnny Depp saying, “If you don’t like seeing pictures of violence towards animals, you need to stop the violence, not the pictures,” has been going around Facebook. I cannot tell you how much that angers me.

The people complaining about the pictures are not the people perpetuating the violence. They are often the people working with the abused animals or finding homes for them after the animal has had it’s medical care. They may be helping an owner get funds to pay for the heroic care needed for their pet’s life to be saved. They may have given money to stop animal abuse already.

To suggest that shelter workers who see so much abuse or veterinary workers who have to try and save the lives damaged by the abuse should not complain about the photos until the violence is stopped lacks any element of compassion or understanding about the people who are complaining. Sharing horrible images is easy. Working in the trenches is much harder. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone has money to donate to help. And everyone wants to help. However,  sharing this type of image is not helpful. In fact, it can make things worse.

Imagine working all day with creatures that have been neglected and harmed and have nothing. And then you go to rest up and there are photos all over your Facebook wall of animals that have been hurt as bad or worse than the ones you saw during the day. What sort of rest is that?

And yes, we all need rest. No one can do it all and no one can do it every hour of every day. Stop the pictures. The people least offended by them are the ones perpetuating the violence. The rest of us can visualize the problem very well on our own, thank you.


  1. Great post. Compassion fatigue is real, and it seems like social media makes it much harder. While Facebook is useful in so many ways, this is a very good example of why more granular tools for curating what appears on your wall would be helpful. I want people to be educated about compassion, but I don’t have any illusions they will set each other off on social media. Giving the weary the tools to help protect themselves from unneccessary pelting of trigger images would be welcome, too.

  2. We agree. You do not have to show disturbing pictures of animals.
    You need to stand up and say that you will work to help stop cruelty.
    You can do that by helping,donating money or talking to politicians about changing laws.
    We need to teach people that animal cruelty is bad, not flood the internet with sad images.
    Hugs for all the frontline workers who see way too much.

  3. Forgive us, but we see both POVs here. We thought the quote made sense. The pictures are to awaken Beins who DONT realize how serious the problem is, not the animal welfare workers fighting ta stop it. Like those TV ads about poor kids with cleft lips arent there to make the doctors feel bad.

    On the other paw, we unnerstand compassion fatigue. WE dont wanna see those pictures either.

    We think the pictures are necessary to educate the unaware…

  4. To Mark’s Mnews, we don’t know about your feed in Facebook but ours has so many that it’s really impossible to not know about this issue. The people sharing are NOT friends of animal abusers so their feeds go only to those who think the same way. These images are not educational. They are traumatizing. And they are not reaching the people who perpetuate the problem.

  5. The issue is that most of us in our niche already know the problems, so we end up preaching to the choir. It’s not just photos, it’s valuable information and resources on spay/neuter, ending cruelty, etc. – the information keeps getting recycled in our same circles and it wears us out. How do we get the information out to the large masses in the mainstream where it is needed the most?

  6. As you say Deb, we need to get beyond our little niche. And how do we do that? Cute photos are much more effective than the horrifying photos of the animals. I think the spay/neuter folks are getting that a little bit more as I’ve seen some really cute things and often on the walls of people who don’t normally post this. I think in many ways the suffering animal photos on the Facebook pages are actually a detriment because so many people won’t look. So it needs to be something that draws people’s attention in a good way so that they stay around to learn- and that others will share with their friends.

  7. I honestly do not believe that showing images of violence perpetrated on animals will do anything to stop it. People who see those images (because the people who do it do not sit around viewing those sorts of ‘stop this’ imagery) know it happens and feels powerless to do something about it.. Yes, they can throw money at the situation and help fix one animal in particular, but there really is no way to stop it at large. (save for shutting down puppy mills)

    I do what I can, I volunteer, I foster, I can not do more.. and seeing those images only breaks my spirit.. makes me thing that what I am doing is just a drop in the bucket so why even try.. I doubt that is what people are looking for when they share those types of images, but that is what they are getting.

  8. It’s a little silly to be angry by this quote, I think it is quite obvious it is not talking to those who are aware of the situations, but to those turning a blind eye to it. People who are asking others to stop sharing photos or hurt animals (hopefully said photos are being shared to spread awareness and not bragging rights) probably do not work in the field of animal welfare. They are the general populous who change their TV every time Sarah McLaughlin’s ‘Angel’ comes on. They don’t want to feel sad, so instead of watching and being made aware that these animals need their help, they turn their backs to something more pleasant.

    That is who this quote is trying to reach.

  9. Thank you for your comment Danielle. As Deb says in her quote above, many of the people who are sharing that image are all linked because they work with abused animals or have friends who do. The fact is, the image is reaching people who already KNOW this but it is not reaching the perpetrators. The fact is, that image *is* traumatizing for the rest of us.

    The images won’t change the people abusing animals and more people can be reached without the graphic images of what goes on. That is not to say an article can’t have an image that is graphic but it is horrifying to the rest of us to see it.

    Further, that quote goes on to say any one of us who works hard to stop animal cruelty and works with the aftermath have no right to complain about the images. We should do more. There is a breaking point.

    I don’t have a choice when seeing those images–I see them. They are burnt on my mind. It’s not that I know it’s a story and I chose to read it, they are plastered on my Facebook Wall, sometimes through friends and sometimes through Facebook ads, because as an animal lover, Facebook thinks I want to see that. So don’t tell me to change the channel. It’s saying I should never ever go out–along with any other animal lover.

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