Monday, February 7, 2011

Don't get involved in this hare-raising experience

PEOPLE tell me that pet dealers are laughing all the way to the bank this Chinese New Year. Rabbit sales have outdone that of dogs or cats.
Although some restaurants have their reservations in serving rabbit meat, the enthusiasm for bunnies among those whose houses I visited is simply amazing.

I was also told that some had bought rabbits after some soothsayers claimed that it was auspicious to have a bunny in the house.

But if the path to prosperity is still not clear to you as you read this, and you are prompted to get a rabbit for your home before Chap Goh Meh, I think you should be aware of a report I read two weeks ago.

According to AFP, rabbit dealers from Thailand to China are doing brisk business but their road to prosperity has raised concerns among animal activists.

To discourage maltreatment of rabbits, a representative of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) organisation has reiterated that rabbits are high-maintenance animals that require significant resources, equipment, attention and veterinary care.

They are not, as your pet dealer will tell you, cute and easy-to-care-for pets that you can introduce to your children.

I agree totally. Having lived two doors away from a neighbour who reared rabbits for meat in the 1970s, I recall how much work went into rabbit keeping.

Rabbits dislike heat and dampness. You cannot hose them down during hot spells like you do a dog or they will catch a cold and die.

As commercial rabbit feed was not widely available, the rabbits were fed wheat grain and rabbit hay -- a type of long-node succulent grass found near waterways.

But you had to make sure the grass is completely dry before they are dropped into the pen. Wet feed would give the rabbits a skin disease and eventually kill them.

Rabbit pens were raised a metre or more off the ground.

They had mesh flooring to enable rabbit urine and droppings to fall through.

The pen had to be airy and the area beneath cleaned daily. A dirty surrounding breeds diseases; a fungal infection can wipe out an entire rabbit population in days.

Of course, for the commercially inclined, the amorous rabbit is a boon. Left to their own devices, a pair can bear you an army six months down the line. You will know how scary that can be if you have reared guppies.

Maintenance and labour costs would multiply unless you keep the males and females separated.

And if you are thinking of buying a rabbit as a pet companion, perhaps you should think again.

Unless you can take good care of the animals and not dump them into the woods, like most people do their unwanted dogs and cats in the city, the bunny may not be good company.

And I am sure the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will appreciate it if you do not get them involved in your hare-raising experience

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