Fact or Fake: A brothel for zoophiles to open in Denmark?

This is the wild rumour that started circulating on websites across Eastern Europe last autumn.

The news is entirely fake, of course. It was actually picked up from a French parody website, secretnews.fr, which clearly proclaims its lack of seriousness.

But despite the disclaimer, the hoax has been taken up by news sites and discussion groups in Russia, Georgia and Belarus.

So how did this “fake news” come about? Well, as is often the case, it is based on a debate that did take place, but which ended in quite the opposite direction: zoophilia was indeed addressed when Denmark formally decided to prohibit this practice back in 2015, concluding that it is related to animal abuse.

But the Russian-language media is not the only ones to be attracted by these kinds of headlines. In October, it was a British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, which ran a story about a brothel for zoophiles opening up – in Serbia this time.

Just like on the Eastern European websites, the news story is not backed up by any evidence.

But it does, however, fit into a broader narrative that has become popular in some Eurosceptic corners of Britain and Russia – that of a European society plagued by moral decay, where debates about gay and lesbian rights are often mixed up with paedophilia and… zoophilia.

‘Fact or Fake’ is a programme developed in partnership with France 24 as part of the weekly show Talking Europe