We warned you a few years ago about buying those adorable baby bunnies from street vendors and flower markets around Shanghai (they are often doomed before you even get them home.) Now it looks like all of China has gone hare-crazy over the little guys and pet shops are scrambling to keep up with demand as the Year of the Rabbit approaches. But animal rights groups from China and abroad are issuing desperate pleas to Asians around the world to abstain as animal abuses mount. Dead bunnies have already started turning up in dumpsters and mailboxes across China.
The worst case by far comes from the online bunny market. Hundreds of online retailers trafficking illegally in the mail-order rabbits ship the animals through normal post. Neglecting to get the proper certification for shipping live animals, they simply put them in a box marked “fragile” and off they go. The rabbits then endure up to five days en route, usually either suffocating or freezing to death before arriving at their destination.
Even worse? To reduce their losses, these companies have started requiring customers to RETURN the dead rabbit in order to get a refund. Which is also illegal.
PETA warns that although many are under the impression that rabbits are cleaner and easier to care for than other household pets, they are in fact quite high-maintenance:
“There’s no better time to help rabbits than during the Year of the Rabbit, and you can do so by refusing to support the pet trade that causes so many animals to suffer,” said Beijing-based PETA campaigner Maggie Chen.
“Rabbits aren’t just cute and fluffy, they are high-maintenance animals that require significant resources, equipment, attention and veterinary care,” Chen said.
PETA issued a statement pointing out that rabbits have fragile bones and require lots of exercise and that they will gnaw on anything in sight – making them less-than-ideal house pets.
“Rabbits are complex animals, and potential caretakers, who often purchase them on a whim, rarely understand the specific needs of their new companions,” the statement said.
Interviews conducted by China Daily confirm this misunderstanding:
“Compared with cats and dogs, rabbits are a lot easier to take care of,” said Jia. “I won’t even have to take mine for a walk.”
She said it will also be nice to leave for work and know that her pet is not at home shredding the furniture.
That perception, that rabbits are clean and easy to look after, has made them especially popular among young white-collar workers, said Wang Xinrui, the owner of a pet store near Beijing’s North Third Ring Road.
“Keeping a rabbit is also cheaper than keeping a dog or a cat,” Wang said.
Shanghai Daily warns that there are not enough veterinarians capable of treating rabbits, especially with the coming demand, and that most people are clueless as to how to raise them properly.
Hundreds of rabbits were abandoned during the last Year of the Rabbit in 1999, and we are probably going to see a similar trend on a much larger scale this year.
Besides outright neglect, there are plenty of other forms of abuse that will probably frequent headlines in the coming months. Catch the Rabbit is being played around the country already, and some zoos have started putting rabbits in with tigers “for fun” (although in this case, it is for “life training” for the tigers…) And our very own Shanghai Wildlife Park is ignoring a new animal performance ban and planning to hold rabbit performances over the new year festivities.