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Please don’t buy a bunny this Easter, or ever

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Falling only a hair behind the boom of advertising for chocolate cream eggs at Easter time, a sale sign can be seen above a swell of cute, cuddly, and inexpensive baby rabbits, chewing the bars of cages in a pet store I occasionally shop at for pellets. The proud owner of two rescue rabbits, my heart sinks to consider where these small souls will be in just a few short weeks or months when the Instagram selfie opportunity has lost it’s seasonal stickers, and when the children they were gifted to have moved on to new interests.

National Geographic ran a beautiful piece on why Easter is bad from bunnies, and it reminded me that most people are unfamiliar with the roommates who share my home. As the third most popular pet in North America (after dogs and cats), they are also the third most abandoned. And spikes in abandonment seem to pattern around Easter each year. This, National Geographic surmises, comes down a misunderstanding of the temperament of rabbits, and the cost and care associated with raising them.

I’ve written about Libby before. An oversized half-flemish giant bred for meat and rescued roadside after escaping a farm, she joined our family in 2015 when her needs outgrew her foster home. Easily scared, aggressive, and untrusting of human hands, she was beautiful enough to get attention but too “troubled” for most to considering keeping. It wasn’t long before the comfort of a green shag rag, all the cilantro she could eat, and the necessary space to spend time alone that she began to trust us. But what if she had never come out of her shell? We understood that our adoption meant doing whatever it took to look after her. When rabbits are seen as a learning tool or starter pet for kids, getting nipped, scratched, or ignored can be enough to find that domesticated rabbit fending for itself on the street.

Libby became a role model last week when we decided to open our home to a second rabbit. Dorian, a small and timid rabbit by comparison, was reported to our same rescue last month when he was trying desperately to get into a strangers home for shelter and food. His rescuers assume he was let go by a family, as he was easily won over with store-bought kibble. The skinny little guy underwent neutering and has since joined our family. I often sit and stare at him, and wonder who could look into his thick-eyelash covered eyes and think I don’t want you anymore.

Now, we’re learning a whole new realm of rabbit care, where territorial behaviours are breeding situations that require stronger attention, patience, and work. There are pee and poop wars daily. The two cannot be left alone yet, and will require supervised “dating” for weeks or months before they can live side by side. There’s jealousy, there’s biting, and there’s acting out to prove dominance. I have to vacuum daily, find it challenging to wear black without excessive lint rolling, and will have to replace all the baseboards in my rental when the time comes to move. And still, at and the end of each day, they get the same amount of security, food, cuddles, and kisses from us. Their mood or habits won’t change that.

Now, I don’t mean to discourage anyone from loving rabbits, quite the contrary. To love and want to care for these unique animals is to understand that adopting those in need is the only way. And it means taking on a commitment to a living being for 10-12 years whether or not you get out of the relationship what you go in expecting. Rabbits, like all animals, are not ours to use as we see fit. They do not deserve to be bred and sold as objects, gift-wrapped like toys and forced to live behind bars. They shouldn’t be conditioned to remain still, docile figurines that should face abandonment for not complying. They chew, they dig, they make a mess – they’re rabbits.

So whether it’s Easter or it isn’t, and whether it’s a rabbit or any other animal, I encourage you to adopt. Allow your love and your resources to give a chance to the billions of animals we’ve left stranded, instead of supporting the corrupt exploitation of cyclical breeding, selling, abandoning, and killing. Then, embody that justice by going vegan, and ending your contribution to all the wicked ways in which animals are commodified in our society.

Now, as Libby and Dorian munch romaine on either side of me, I feel honoured to have the opportunity to teach others the joy of rescuing animals, of being vegan, and of using this one life to choose to improve others instead sacrificing them.

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