It's Easter. Years of experience tells us that this week thousands of people across the world will have bought rabbits for their children, more so than any other week of the year. Having taken no more thought over the purchase than they would a toy, they have doomed these rabbits to a short and miserable life being terrorised by humans who don't understand their nature, having no space, no companion and the wrong diet.
But why do people do it? There are many holidays and celebrations for which giving gifts is part of the tradition but, aside from the chocolate eggs brought by the Easter Bunny, Easter is not one of them. So why would they buy and give these rabbits?
The answer, one can only presume, lies simply in the prominence of rabbits at Easter time. Thanks to the Easter Bunny, this time of year we see the media and our shop windows filled with images of rabbits. Cute, adorable, baby rabbits. Children see them and think of them like the cuddly toys they've had and been comforted by from birth, only better because they are alive. The children imagine cuddling a rabbit like their toy and that rabbit automatically returning their affection. They pester their parents for one of their own.
Pet shops understand there is an opportunity in all this and run Easter promotions. They sell rabbits with a set of accessories, which will most likely include a hutch that is too small and possibly something they call a run, even though it doesn't give the rabbit enough space to do anything of the sort. The two items may not even attach together. In many cases the shop staff will make no effort to adequately explain to the customer the rabbits needs.
At best, the purchase happens through naivety on the part of the parents. Society, friends, relatives, the media and finally the pet shop have sold them an idea of what a rabbit is that is far from the reality. At worst, there are people in this world with little care for the lives of animals, who are happy to just buy this thing their child wants, later to discard it without a care when the child is bored with it or it begins to be an inconvenience.
These poor unfortunate rabbits often end their miserable lives dying of neglect, being euthanised or thrown out in to the wild to be preyed upon. Some will end up on free-ads, being picked up by unscrupulous owners to be used as food or be killed for entertainment by their own animals. Some will have their lives extended as they are passed on to another family who also doesn't understand their needs. Some will go on for years, barely existing with nothing but a wall to stare at, living like a prisoner in depressing and lonely conditions.
The lucky ones will make it into a rescue. A place where they will be given space, proper food and clean water daily, a place where they will meet and live with others of their own kind. But these rescues are already over stretched and underfunded. The post-Easter swell in numbers of people wishing to surrender rabbits brings a huge anxiety as we struggle to find the space, money and volunteers to deal with them.
So while families across the globe are enjoying their chocolate eggs, it is a sad day in rabbit rescues today. A countdown has been started and a whole new generation of bunnies will soon be needing our help. Our hearts are heavy knowing there will be some we cannot help, some we never even hear about.
A countdown has started.
How long does it take a child to get bored?