The Dodo isn’t Advancing Animal Rights, it’s Hindering Them
It’s easy to consider yourself a friend to the animals if you’re a daily reader of The Dodo. The Dodo is pop animal welfare, a website that positions itself as true-blue animal activism. After exploring this popular online community, it becomes quite obvious that The Dodo is piggybacking off the Animals Rights Movement, and dragging it back.
Right in the beginning of it’s mission statement, The Dodo tells us that their goal is to “make caring about animals a viral cause,” and viral cause they have indeed created. The header on the front page gives us a few options: Video, Pets, Inspiring, Cute, Seaworld, Animals in Need, Community, and How to Help. Fun, precious animals, usually pets, having a good time. Oh, Seaworld- there we go! Seaworld is hell for animals, but wait, we all saw that on CNN and at the Oscars. Okay, Dodo, let’s check out Animals in Need- let this be a good one.
The only animals in need according to this part of the website are trophies and animals in abusive companionship situations. We all remember Cecil the Lion and the outrage surrounding his death, and the articles posted reflect the same attitudes. Giraffes numbers are falling. The Ah-nold is PISSED about elephant hunters. I can’t help but wonder- where in the world are the factory farmed animals? How about the chickens who live down the street who are ultimately heading towards slaughter? No mention of the pig truck that drives up and down my hometown street once a week bringing the hogs out to the eastern part of Virginia? But, as we sadly know, chickens aren’t exotic enough. Dairy cows are represented as being respected, and even loved, by their captors. Pigs, to many people, taste delicious, and their ride down Interstate 460 every week is a part of life everyone in town is used to. Hey, Dodo, what exactly is your definition of an animal in need?
The Dodo is, without a fraction of a doubt, counter-productive to the animal rights movement because it puts the animal rights movement at a standstill. They create emotional content about situations that readers can very rarely actually help with, and hide the most important message that we all know helps change the world for animals everywhere: the necessity of becoming vegan.
Defenders of The Dodo say it’s a good way to get activist’s feet wet, but it’s obvious from just looking at the front page that the company is more interested in warming our hearts with the status-quo. In what direction does The Dodo actually want their reader base to move when it comes to animal rights and animal welfare? Are they any different than Buzzfeed, or is this just another company willing to capitalize on setting the bar low, and keeping it there? After all, there is profit to be made in complacency.
Speaking of profit, I’ve wondered to myself what exactly it is that The Dodo intends to create through the website-whether they’re simply fighting some misguided battle or if it’s a quick buck in the pockets of it’s investors. With venture capital firms such as Greycroft and Softbank Capital and real-estate corporations such a Sterling Equities listed as initial investors, it’s hard to believe that any of these companies put forth the money to get The Dodo up and running as some kind of push for the welfare of animals.
Founder Izzie Lerer, an accomplished horseback rider and bona-fide rich kid, comes from a family of entrepreneurs and investors – most of whom work for or have strong associations with the above investors. She dreamed up the idea for the website as she was finishing a dissertation on the relationship between humans and animals, and told the Business Insider, “We’re seizing a moment where animal content is ruling the internet, and the animal welfare movement is gaining a great deal of momentum.” What The Business Insider fails to mention is that most of the funding comes from Ken Lerer, her father and co-founder of The Huffington Post and chairman of Buzzfeed. Sam Biddle of Gawker ran an expose in November of last year, outlining the lack of leadership on Izzie’s part and the miserable workspace that The Dodo has cultivated, discussing the nepotism running rampant within the company. “The Dodo was a family project from top to bottom,” he writes, “Various employees, executive assistants, and actual executives were connected to the Lerer clan by blood, marriage, or friendship.” So there we have it – The Dodo is this millennium’s version of a daddy buying a show pony for his petulant child.
After discovering this gem of information, I made my return back to the website with one last glimmer of hope – the “How to Help” button listed on the header. Perhaps there would be something of value to come out of this shit-show!
No mention of veganism. Nothing, not a single, gentle, push in that direction. Under “Farm Animal” help, the site encourages you to go to a farmers market locator that advertises meat right up on the front page. Within the wildlife header, there is zero mention of the devastating turmoil that animal agriculture has on the habitats of wild animals that are losing their homes.
The Dodo says in their goals that they want to empower people, but the list presented to the public isn’t at all empowering. It’s more of a back pat and a nice article to share with your great aunt.
The Dodo chooses to focus their attention and energies on animals we already know and love. In vegan circles, how often do we ask non-vegan folks, “would you harm a dog, or a cat?” and of course, we know these people would never dare. They’ve been socialized to believe that some species are better than others, and those other species should be hidden behind closed doors. Although an overwhelming number of animals are forced to be euthanized each day, #adoptdontshop is a trend, a bragging right, among folks who consider themselves to be animal lovers. Sharing a viral photo of a companion animal rehabilitated who now needs to find a new home counts as “activism” in our world of social media; one simply clicks the share button, nobody argues against such an inoffensive statement, and they move along with their day feeling that they’ve truly made a difference for a shelter dog across the country.
It is absolutely exploitation of those who consider themselves to truly love animals. If they love the creatures of the world as much as we hope they do, than these people deserve much more adequate coverage of the atrocities that are hidden away from them. For every page hit of a cute puppy greeting his human toddler companion, The Dodo makes a little more money. It’s exploitive because it’s a pat on the back and a mask around the eyes. It’s exploitive towards the animals it claims to love by hiding away the ones that make us uncomfortable, and giving us no other options to help them.
To continue to support, follow, and re-post The Dodo as an activist community sends a specific message that what the publication is doing is okay, even when we know it isn’t.
“For the Love of Animals,” the Dodo reads after every story share.
Maybe for a few animals.