Tag: 5 freedoms
February 3, 2016
EDIT: 4.2.16 – Burgess have announced they will no longer support the Harrogate Show. Thank you Burgess for making a stand for rabbit welfare.
Widely promoted as ‘the UK’s biggest small animal show’, the Burgess Premier Small Animal show has been held in Harrogate since 1921. It is a meet up for breeders of rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, chinchillas and more who enjoy showing the best of their stock and hope to come away as winners. As my expertise is in rabbits – this will be the species I focus on here. The Guardian has posted an interesting article on the most recent 2016 show.
BUT AT WHAT PRICE?
Rabbit handling at the 2007 Excel show in Harrogate. CC:BY-NC-ND.
Photos from the event and those from previous events (see above), show some common handling techniques used at shows. For example, rabbits being held on their backs. This is called ‘trancing’ or ‘tonic immobility’. This has been proven to be very stressful for rabbits (as well as increasing the risk of a back injury). As they are prey species, this is an auto response they enter when tipped over. See here for more info on trancing. Many people use this method of handling for checking, grooming and judging rabbits and many refuse to change their ways and disregard the scientific facts. Many top organizations and specialists do not agree with trancing, including The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) who are the UK’s largest organization dealing with domestic rabbit welfare.
The British Rabbit Council (BRC) are the UK governing body for fur and fancy rabbits. When previously questioned about trancing, they were adamant that this was NOT a part of their routine handling – yet it seems, this happens all too often AND at BRC approved events by BRC approved judges.
Also some of these photos show that the judge is grasping the ears as part of the support / restraint. This method can easily cause damage and pain to the rabbit and is not recommended as a standard form of acceptable and safe handling.
BUT SURELY THE ENCLOSURES ARE OK?
Example of show cages in 2007
Sadly not – as you can see they are tiny, one rabbit per cage, wood shavings for bedding, some don’t even have food and / or hay (hay and fresh water should be available to a rabbit 24/7). Thankfully no cages were observed that did not have a water available. Each rabbit can be stuck in these cages for many hours, some will spend the entire day there. Surely this doesn’t meet the Five Freedoms welfare standards? Is this even legal if you consider the Animal Welfare Act 2006?
Wire floor show cage
The photo above (taken by me in 2007) shows the types of cages that the long haired rabbits have to sit in. They have wire bottoms as clearly shown in the picture. Wire floors are not recommended by welfare organizations and rabbit specialists as they can cause pain and damage to the feet. See this RSPCA factsheet for more information on rabbit accommodation.
Next question… where do they stay overnight? That’s another thing I urge you to ask the show organizers. At this particular event a message was shared publicly to the exhibitors explaining that the animals would have to spend the whole of the first evening in their travel boxes as the venue was not safe due to weather problems. Yes the weather is not under anyone’s control, but is it fair to keep an animal in a traveling box overnight? What size are these boxes and where were they placed? When staying at a secure venue with no weather problems, where do the rabbits spend the night – in these show cages? or somewhere else.
Many of the rabbits that do have food in with them, are being fed on a muesli diet – again this has been scientifically proven to contribute to dental and digestive problems. If these people care SO much about their live stock – why are they not adhering to basic welfare guidelines and following the most up to date veterinary advice?
The RWAF state that rabbits should live in bonded, neutered pairs, be fed on a good quality diet (not muesli style mixes) and be housed in spacious accommodation that allows at least 3 full hops in any direction. Clearly – show accommodation is NOT adhering to any of these guidelines. What message is this sending the general public who flock to this event? Charities and veterinary professionals work tirelessly to promote good husbandry, handling and welfare – then for a bit of fun and entertainment (for the humans not the animals), these animal shows can do untold damage to the welfare messages in just a few hours.
WHAT ABOUT DISEASE RISKS?
Some diseases are very easily spread between rabbits and other small animals. I’m focusing on one – Viral Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RVHD). This is a rapid and often fatal disease that is easily spread from rabbit to rabbit and from human to rabbit too. It has also recently mutated into a second strain that is currently not routinely vaccinated against in the UK. The disease can live in the environment for many weeks and is easily spread on shoes, car tyres, clothes, hands etc. The following statement is displayed on the BRC’s own website with regards to RVHD:
“Clothes should be changed between handling rabbits from different places. Newly arrived rabbits should be quarantined for at least a week before mixing with others, and different clothing worn between established and new groups of rabbits.”
So – take a look at the image of the rabbit show cages again… These rabbits are side by side, above and below many other rabbits from other breeders. The judges wear their ‘coats’ for the whole show and do not change them in-between each rabbit. The judging tables have tablecloths on that are not changed between each rabbit. Do the judges wear gloves? Oh and the public have full access in and out the building, can get right up to the show cages and touch them too. Final question: Why are there no apparent disease risk controls in place?
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
I advise anyone who agrees that these types of shows DO NOT promote animal welfare, to contact the companies involved. Burgess are the main sponsor and the BRC are heavily involved.
Thankfully I have seen that Burgess have responded to a tweet today and are “reviewing their involvement with the show” (EDIT: and have WITHDRAWN their support for the show. PLEASE contact Burgess to thank them for putting welfare first).
Please do consider contacting Burgess, the show and the BRC directly (via email, Facebook, Twitter, letter etc) to see if you can get answers to some of the questions raised and show your displeasure with the event.
Finally a thank you AGAIN to Burgess for putting welfare first.
February 25, 2015
We all know that fashion and animal welfare do not often go together well. However, a designer at this years London Fashion Week has taken things a step too far.
Markus Lupfer is a German born designer who is most famous for his knitwear. Sadly, his collections include angora products…but this is not the main point of this post (it just adds to his lack of regard for rabbit welfare).
With a worldwide following that includes celebrities, this fashionista decided to “bring a woodland experience to an urban environment so people could re-connect with nature”…well that sounds alright doesnt it?
But does this LOOK alright?
Markus Lupfer Rabbit Abuse
Cue the glass balls hanging from the ceiling, partially filled with straw and 2 young rabbits dumped inside. Cameras flashing, people laughing, inadequate ventilation, nowhere to hide and no obvious clean source of water, room to move or decent food source. Sounds more like a horror scene for those poor rabbits than a wonderful interaction. Oh and don’t forget the fact that they got plucked out to be held by models for 15 minutes at a time for the photo opportunities.
These poor rabbits look extremely young although Markus Lupher will not declare their exact age. Oh and they were from a breeder, not a rescue, just to add extra insult.
Social media came alive with tweets (@markuslufer) and status’s exclaiming how wonderful this ‘show’ was, how cute the rabbits were, how clever the designer was and how its inspired people to go buy a rabbit *sigh*. Not a second thought was given to the welfare of those poor creatures, hung in a glass bowl for the humans entertainment. Not far off a circus act really.
Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 places a duty of care on people to ensure they take reasonable steps in all the circumstances to meet the welfare needs of their animals to the extent required by good practice. This is upheld by the RSPCA and they can prosecute people who are found to breech these conditions. In my opinion, this ‘show’ clearly breaks at least 4 of the 5 freedoms mentioned in the act. For reference, here are the 5 freedoms:
1) Freedom from hunger and thirst.
By providing enough fresh water and the right type and amount of food to keep them fit.
2) Freedom from discomfort.
Making sure that animals have the right type of environment including shelter and somewhere comfortable to rest.
3) Freedom from pain, injury and disease.
By preventing them from getting ill or injured and by making sure animals are diagnosed and treated rapidly if they do.
4) Freedom to behave normally.
By making sure animals have enough space, proper facilities and the company of other animals of their own kind.
5) Freedom from fear and distress.
By making sure their conditions and treatment avoid mental suffering.
Luckily the good people of the world quickly saw the true horror of this publicity stunt and started to retaliate. The social media comments started to turn, welfare questions were asked, responses were sought and the ‘show’ was questioned. The Markus Lupfer facebook page quickly grew with over 60 complaints in a matter of hours. Twitter was also awash with negative comments regarding the debacle. I even had a fashion journalist ask me for more information on the Animal Welfare Act as she was unaware of the problems but wanted to know more.
The turning of the tide has prompted Markus Lupfer to release a ‘legal statement’ with regards to the use of the rabbits. In my opinion, this is a cop out that just forces the ‘blame’ onto the so called animal welfare company that was supposedly present the whole time. I have previously had my doubts about the qualifications of these so called ‘welfare companies’ who attend filming and public appearances to safe guard the animals. This clearly does not happen with rabbits when you consider the last few things like the Mcvities Ad, the PDSA ad and now this fashion extravaganza. If these ‘experts’ truly understood rabbit behavior then these things would not have been allowed to happen.
Markus Lupfer Legal Statement
This is the second time in just a matter of months that a so called ‘artist’ has used live rabbits in an unacceptable way to gain publicity. Anne Imhof presented an art exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Giant rabbits were placed in tiny perspex cubes whilst dancers roamed around the cage banging metal rods. Just awful. You can read more about it here.
Anne Imhof Rabbit Abuse. Photo from tumblr
So….let nip this in the bud and get the message out there that animal abuse for the sake of art, fashion or human entertainment is NOT right and will NOT be accepted. Easter is fast approaching and I fear more stunts like this will appear which will also add to the suffering of yet more rabbits being bought on a whim as an Easter gift, many resulting in a silent suffering, tortuous existence.
Please share this information, help to raise the awareness and also consider sending polite complaints to London Fashion Week, Markus Lupfer, Anne Imhof and any other ‘artists’ who deem their work to be more important than animal welfare. Dont forget to also lodge a formal complaint with the RSPCA if you deem any of the 5 freedoms to have been broken (this only applies in the UK. You can contact the SSPCA in Scotland).
Lets shout loud about rabbit welfare and help make a difference.
August 14, 2014
Poundstretcher have just publicly announced that they will be removing all of the horrid rabbit prison hutches from sale with immediate effect.
The Pet Hut, a subsidiary of Poundstretcher, has taken the decision to remove The Rabbit Hutch from all of its stores across the UK with immediate effect. As a supplier of pet products and accessories, we take the welfare of all animals extremely seriously and will not be purchasing this product again in the future.
For all PR enquiries please contact:
0121 236 2132 or [email protected]”
This is a fabulous example of people working together to make a change. Social media is a powerful tool – one that companies often underestimate.
However, for me….the battle may be won but the war still continues. Poundstretcher have still not responded to ANY of my communications and I still have outstanding questions (see previous post).
I also want to find out if The Pet Hut and Poundstretchers will consider working with the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund to ensure this type of product is never sold in their stores again.
A BIG thank you to everyone that has helped share this message so far – please continue! You can contact Poundstretchers to thank them for removing the Prison Hutch from sale and also politely urge them sign up to the RWAF Retail Charter to ensure they only provide quality items in the future.
And of course….keep checking the stores to ensure they are sticking to their word 🙂
August 8, 2014
Pound Stretchers Rabbit Prison
For just £129.99 you too could be the proud owner of a ‘Deluxe’ rabbit prison :/ Oh wait….why would you want to be…
This awful enclosure was spotted in a Pound Stretcher branch a few days ago. They have a specific part of the store called The Pet Hut which stocks all sorts of bits and bobs for your companion animals. Every penny counts…but apparently rabbit welfare does not.
Smaller than a laboratory rabbits enclosure – this horrible prison is being marketed as a top end treat for your cherished pet. Personally – I don’t even think this is a suitable size to house rats in let alone rabbits. It does not allow a rabbit to participate in its 5 Freedoms (breaking points 2, 4 and 5).
Not only is it TINY! (approx 2ft square) the ramps are so steep and it looks like it has a wire bottom floor. Not good. Most average rabbits couldn’t sit in this comfortably let alone live in it with their friend (as rabbits should live in bonded, neutered pairs).
Many complaints have been made to Pound Stretchers facebook page but unfortunately, rather than replying, they are deleting the majority of the comments. Others are e-mailing the head office and a lucky few have received this reply:
“The Rabbit Hutch has been sourced for our stores from a UK supplier. The legal size requirement for this product has been met by the manufacturer as well as the organizations who set the guidelines.
We have made a decision to not purchase this product in the future for our stores.
Thank you for your time.
Sounds like a cop out to me. Interestingly enough, they have not responded to my questions:
1) Will this item be removed from stock immediately or will it be discounted and placed on sale?
2) What resource did you use for the ‘legal size requirement’ and which organisations did you contact?
3) Do you currently stock any other hutches that are 4ft or smaller?
The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund are the UK’s leading source of rabbit advice. Funnily enough, they were not contacted by Pound Stretchers with regards to minimum housing guidelines. They run the ‘A Hutch Is Not Enough‘ campaign which strives to educate manufacturers, retailers and the general public as to what enclosures rabbits need to live a happy and healthy life.
Their current MINIMUM guidelines clearly state that the hutch / cage should be at least 6ft x 2ft x 2ft with full time access to an attached run that should be at least 8ft x 4ft.
If you feel, like I do, that Pound Stretchers are promoting animal cruelty by selling this horrendous rabbit prison then please consider doing one or all of the following:
1) Leave a complaint on their Facebook page
2) Leave a 1 star review on their Facebook page
3) Email your complaint to Pound Stretchers
4) Email your complaint to The Pet Hut
5) Boycott your local store
Please do let me know (by using the comments section) if you get any replies.