Year of the Rabbit brings campaigns for rabbits
HONG KONG–Will the Year of the Rabbit bring anything good for rabbits?
Starting on February 3, 2011, the Year of the Rabbit is recognized throughout the world by ethnic Chinese people, and by many other Asians who share Chinese traditions. If nothing else, the Year of the Rabbit afforded activists an opportunity to raise a voice for rabbits.
“The International Union for the Conservation of Nature is stressing that, despite their reputation as prolific love-makers, nearly one in four rabbits, hares and pikas are threatened with extinction,” Gray continued. “Asian species under siege include the Sumatran striped rabbit, hispid hare, Amami rabbit and the Annamite striped rabbit, only discovered by scientists in 1995. The endangered ili pika has disappeared from half of its known locations in northwestern China since it was first described some 30 years ago.”
Hong Kong SPCA director of welfare Fiona Woodhouse, VMD, and Rabbit Society spokesperson Joanna Chow Yuk-ha also addressed the traffic in rabbits as pets. Following a 3% rise in rabbit surrenders in 2010, they anticipated a further increase of 30% to 40% in 2011. “Rabbits are emotional and aware of being abandoned. It’s heartbreaking to see a little bunny leaning by the window, head down, knowing she has been abandoned,” Chow told Serinah Ho of the Hong Kong Standard.
ACTAsia for Animals executive director Pei F. Su addressed the use of rabbit fur in China with a Twitter campaign reaching 1.5 million people, she estimated.
Animals Asia Foundation founder Jill Robinson addressed the use of rabbits for meat. “We’ve just returned from a week-long investigation of some of China’s live animal markets, where the rabbits were bludgeoned to death,” Robinson posted in rebuttal to rabbit fur industry claims that byproduct fur from the rabbit meat industry is “humane.”
Only chickens are raised and slaughtered in China in greater numbers than rabbits. China has in fact led the world in rabbit production since 1958, when global statistics were first assembled, and has perhaps always led the world in rabbit production, since China is where rabbits first were domesticated, millennia ago, and were first kept in small hutches. Indeed, rabbits may have been the first “factory farmed” species. Currently about 450 million rabbits per year are killed for meat in China, amounting to between a quarter and half of global output. About 235 million rabbits are on Chinese farms at any given time, according to Lai Zhiqiang and Cai Xioyan of the Guangxi Institutes of Animal Sciences, in a 2008 paper entitled Rabbit Resources of China. China sells about 15 to 20 million rabbit pelts per year, Lai Zhiqiang and Cai Xioyan reported, making China the only major exporter of rabbit fur, they said.
Year of the Rabbit campaigners hope to change attitudes toward rabbits much as attitudes were changed on behalf of dogs during the two most recent Years of the Dog. Previously, the Year of the Dog was rarely auspicious for dogs. 1910, for example, brought famine and a rise in dog-eating to Korea, following a Japanese invasion. In 1922 the Chinese Communist Party declared that dogs are social parasites. The notoriously dog-hating Mao Tse Tung became head of the Chinese Communist Party in 1934, began his rise to national rule in 1946, and in 1958 purged both dogs and songbirds, blaming them for a famine caused chiefly by poor economic planning that killed millions of people.
The 1994 Year of the Dog both began and ended in Beijing with dog massacres in the name of rabies control–but late in the year city officials acknowledged that the Beijing pet dog population had trebled despite the killing and began promoting licensing and vaccination instead. The licensing fee was reduced three times before the next Year of the Dog, in 2006. 2006 also began and ended with dog massacres rationalized in the name of rabies control, but mostly in smaller cities in outlying provinces. Throughout the year Chinese state media amplified activist exposure of the killings and often pointed out that vaccination had eradicated rabies in the Beijing region.
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