Thoughts on rabbit rescue

This is what we do. And we have seen worse.

These kinds of links come through on some of my email lists for the national organization. Below is a link to a blog post about a perceived need for House Rabbit Society and the American Rabbit Breeders’ Association to put aside their differences for the good of rabbits. A slightly edited copy of my response to the article follows, though you can probably get a lot out of it even without reading the original post.

My response

Perhaps after years of rescue I am jaded, but my favorite comment in this blog post was about breeders coming back in their next life as rabbits in a breeder’s care. I really don’t think those who exploit these creatures–and breeding IS exploitation, even for pets, let alone culling/food/fur–have stopped to think about the big picture they fuel in tandem with an uneducated public.

HRS (of which I am a part, but I’m speaking from my own personal experiences here) fights battles on several fronts. We are faced with too many homeless rabbits in shelters and as strays. Many came from some hobby or 4H breeding program; others come through pet stores; and then there are all the accidents and experiments that happen in pet owners’ homes. Less frequently but still significantly there are abuse/neglect cases, though we respond to requests for help from local animal control agencies and do not ‘raid,’ ‘investigate,’ nor ‘plot against’ breeding facilities, despite what others might believe in the ARBA community. We simply don’t have the resources to fight back at every source, since most days are spent treading water and making hard decisions about which shelter bunnies can come home with us and which must stay to be euthanized for lack of space in foster care, available good homes, or funds to pay the vet. The mission is one of rescue and education, not politics and infiltration.

Like Judith, I’d love to see the gap bridged between ARBA and HRS, if only to stop some of the vitriol that poisons those younger members. Trust me, we want to be ‘out of business’ (but let me be clear we’re all going broke doing rescue, despite the hilarious references to us as HR$ in some breeding circles). We don’t want there to be rabbits who need rescue! The curious position of rabbits in the Western world as both livestock and pet makes this battle more than twice as hard for HRS than it does for a dog or cat rescue group. Can anyone imagine siding with a puppy mill, or passing local laws that allow one to eat or shoot or administer blunt trauma or break the necks of extra dogs from breeding programs? HRS has to focus on the flow of homeless rabbits because that is the most urgent need, the lives lost daily. We are hardly equipped to fight battles of eating/breeding/fur-producing, and indeed that’s not the mission. Our education efforts (which are significant) are primarily at the pet-owner level and convincing pet stores to cease the sale of rabbits. As surprising as it may be to some members of ARBA, we aren’t out picketing nor are we even all vegetarians!

One of the biggest barriers to HRS having a presence at an ARBA convention (other than policy) is that our mere presence gives the appearance of sanctioning that breeding exploitation. Casual attendees could easily assume we are part of, aligned with, or in agreement with rabbit breeding and showing, which is definitely not the case. Yes, we may post educational materials in some pet stores–but not stores that sell rabbits! That implies that it’s ok to buy a bunny, which promotes breeding and the rabbit as a ‘product,’ something against our philosophy.

I appreciated your thoughts in this post, and indeed if every rabbit-lover were so reasoned, the gap between HRS and ARBA would not be as wide. As it is, we struggle to save lives daily, and the other organization creates and destroys them. I fear never the twain shall meet until breeding and showing – exploitation – are out of consideration on ARBA’s part, and that seems unlikely.

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