UPDATE: 5pm 28.3.18
I am VERY pleased to see that Heathrow Airport have decided to cancel their event! Hooray – thanks to everyone that contacted them and well done Heathrow for seeing sense!
Yet again its that magical time of year when the Easter Bunny comes to visit and shares all his lovely chocolate eggs. Isnt it wonderful? No…not if you are a rabbit.
Easter is the time of year when the majority of companies believe animal exploitation is perfectly acceptable. Throughout the world, live rabbits (and chicks) will be taken to busy shopping centres, schools and even airports and forced to interact with excitable children. Not a care is given to the welfare of the live animals because a ‘wonderful experience for the children’ is often deemed far more important than the animals care.
It is vital to understand a rabbits behaviour in order to see why this thinking is wrong.
1) Rabbits are prey species. As such, they do not like loud noises, busy areas and lots of people. They do not like being hovered over (this is like a bird of prey waiting to cach them) and they do not like being picked up, held or pinned to the floor for a ‘lovely cuddle’.
2) Rabbits have specific dietary and housing needs. Their diet should be strictly controlled any many of these live animal encounters feed muesli type mix to their animals regardless of what species they are. Often, large amounts of carrots are also used at these events so that the children can feed the rabbits – a very bad thing as carrots are high in sugars and not suitable for feeding in large quantities or every day.
3) Rabbits should only live with rabbits. Many of these pop up events will have rabbits housed with other species such as guinea pigs, chicks, ducks, goats and mini horses. This is NOT acceptable and creates a hugh risk of injury and stress to all the animals involved.
For more information on caring for rabbits, please see the Rabbit Welfare Association and Funds guide.
Lets look at Heathrow Airport first…
In their wisdom they have created a ‘Bunny Cuddle Corner’ in every terminal for over the Easter period. They are very excited about this venture and have created a video to highlight how fabulous it is that they are providing a space for over excited children to get in with live rabbits before boarding their flight. They even have Dr Elizabeth Kilbey (a clinical child psychologist) in the video stating that animals have a soothing effect on children. Well, yes…but what about the effect that excitable children have on rabbits? Apparently, that does not seem to matter…She even states that “rabbits are the perfect pets to calm children”. This is an outrageous thing to promote and she clearly has NO clue about a rabbits needs.
My questions that are not currently being answered are:
- Where these rabbits are being kept overnight?
- How long do they spend in the ‘activity’ enclosure at a time and per day?
- What is the current vaccination status of each rabbit?
- How long is their journey to and from the airport?
Heathrow have stated that the rabbits are “trained for this environment” (I never knew you could get airport training for rabbits…) and they are provided by a company called Amazing Animals. I wonder if they are this company that was highlighted in the Daily Mail in 2016?
Heathrow have responded to the public outcry on their Facebook page with a couple of pretty standard cut and paste responses that frankly, are not acceptable. They claim that “The activity is being run to give people the chance to have a relaxing moment before travelling”. What on earth??? Since when did humans desperately need to stroke a rabbit before boarding a plane as the only way to calm themselves? I’m feeling anything but calm right now! Please sign this urgent petition to get this event shut down!
Moving on to The Sun newspaper.
They decided to print an Easter feature and use a Shutterstock image of a child dangling a rabbit pretty much by its neck! The Sun responded to a few comments (not all and not to any of mine) with a paltry excuse that they did not know the handling was innapropriate and they are sure the child did not mean to cause any deliberate harm to the rabbit. Well thats ok then…NOT! I would like to know how Morrisons, Smiggle, Superdrug, Poundland and Ocado feel about being promoted alongside animal cruelty?
We need to wise up about animal exploitation – as parents, as companies, as HUMANS! and treat animals with the respect they deserve. These promotions are meerly a circus by another name and should not be socially acceptable. If you are a parent, be responisble for the messages you are giving your kids and avoid anywhere that exploits animals.
These are just 2 example of the horrors that have been unveiled so far for Easter 2018. If like me, you feel that these events are cruel and should be stopped, please politely contact the companies involved by email, letter, Facebook or Twitter and share your responses. You can encourage others to share their thoughts on these, and other Easter events with live animals.
And PLEASE make sure you sign and share this urgent petition!
EDIT July 2018
Oxbow have re-released these and they are now available again.
For many years, rabbit owners have been giving the Oxbow Papaya Fruit Plus tablets to their rabbits to help prevent hairball build up. Although, not scientifically proven to help, the anecdotal evidence and owner testimonials are overwhelming with positive results.
These little tablets contain the active enzymes Papain and Bromelain. These enzymes are thought to break down some of the mucus in the gut. They do not break down the fur itself. It is the mucus that binds the fur together inside the gut and this causes the faeces to get clogged with too much hair. This can show as mis-shapen poops or, if particularly bad, will look like a string of pearls. These are very hard for the rabbit to pass naturally and can cause a gut slow down or blockage resulting in an emergency situation.
Unfortunately – Oxbow decided to discontinue these tablets on 1st September 2014 and they have not produced a direct replacement (There are a few still available on Amazon). They now offer the Oxbow Natural Science Digestive Support Supplement which is great…but has not active enzymes in it so is no use for hairball prevention.
But there is another way….
As always, lots of fluids are needed to help a rabbit whilst it is moulting, along with daily grooming. The best brush for rabbits is the cat zoom groom by Kong. It is soft and rubbery so does not hurt or damage the skin like slicker brushes and combs can do. Feed the rabbits their fresh greens / herbs soaking wet as this helps to get more fluids in as well.
Pro C by Vetark is a fabulous product that can be added to the drinking water daily. It contains probiotics that help the gut cope and also extra vitamin C. Rabbits metabolise more vitamin C when they are stressed and moulting is a stressful time. This helps the entire rabbits system cope a bit better during the moult. It can turn the water a shade of green so don’t worry if this happens. Use for a 5-10 day course. This is generally a product that I would always recommend to keep in the cupboard for use at any times of stress of illness.
I have searched around for an alternative enzymatic product and found something that may work. It is a Bromelain supplement called ‘Natures Own’ with no added nasties in it. Each tablet contains 100mg of Bromelain. The Oxbow tablets contained 23mg of Bromelain as well as 2.9mg of Papain and 1-2 tablets could be given daily. This means, if using these ‘new’ Bromelain tablets that are 100mg…you can cut them into quarters thus feeding 25mg per quarter. This can be given as a daily dose and increased to half a tablet (50mg) per day for when the rabbit is moulting.
I MUST stress that I have not tested these tablets in rabbits – but have been looking for an alternative that is as close to the Oxbow tablets as possible. This recommendation is purely based on the fact that these new tablets contain Bromelain in a sufficient dose that almost matches the Oxbow tablets. It is not an exact replacement. You can always discuss this with your vet before use and always stop if any tummy upsets occur.
I would be very interested to hear from anyone does choose to use these and if you notice any improvements.
Roll out the red carpet and put out the bunting – a fabulous rabbit clinic has opened in Scotland!
Glasgow’s Small Animal Hospital, at Glasgow University Vet School, has opened a Rabbit Wellness Clinic set up by Veterinarian Livia Benato. She aims to raise awareness of rabbit welfare both before and after a pet has been purchased. She will also be working with student Vets in their final year – educating them on the real needs of rabbits and how to examine, house and treat them.
This is a great leap forward for rabbit healthcare. The clinic will be offering plenty of up to date advice including husbandry, diet and training as well as running regular appointments for preventative healthcare and other veterinary needs.
Unfortunately, not all vets are rabbit savvy. The ‘exotics’ training they receive can differ greatly depending on which university they attend. Often, many vets get taught a very brief and basic overview of the rabbit and have to undertake extra learning after graduation if they choose to learn more about lagomorphs – but this is not mandatory. The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund hold a list of vets which have answered a questionnaire about their rabbit services and experience. This is available to the public at no cost. Just contact the RWAF for more info.
I sincerely hope this model of rabbit clinics will spread throughout the whole of the UK.
Oh and if you like the above picture…check out Rabbits Require Rights!
Personally, in my job as a Veterinary Nurse, I have never had a problem placing a normal sized microchip into any cat / dog / rabbit / guinea pig or tortoise – however, I have experienced a lot of anxiety and resistance from the owners of the animals. They think that the procedure to place the microchip (just an injection) will really hurt the animal. If the injection is carried out correctly this is not usually the case. Occasionally the injection site can bleed a little (always seems to be the white coloured animals as it looks worse!) but most animals have an area of skin that is quite loose and baggy with minimal nerve endings – meaning its quick and easy to place the microchip with minimum discomfort.
As micro chipping is such an important thing to do, then I’m happy to see any new products and initiatives that can help keep animals safe, identifiable and more easily reunited with their loved ones.
There are also other good reasons for micro chipping that can make your life easier as a pet owner! Sureflap are makers of a cat flap that will only open for a specific pet. The cat flap scans the cats microchip and only opens when a pre programmed match is found. This can stop other cats entering your property and causing havoc with your current pets.
The same company are also developing a feeding bowl (Surefeed) that works on the same principle. This means that it would be easier to feed your pets a prescription diet / medication etc in a multi pet house hold as the bowl will only allow access to the ‘chosen’ pet. This should be available from Summer 2014.
So…firstly its important to NEVER feed a muesli mix style of food as this has been scientifically proven to cause selective feeding, dental and digestive issues. It is also chocked full of sugary stuff and grains that rabbits don’t need in their diet.
But this then leaves us in the sometimes bewildering world of pellets. Which brand? Do I choose the cheapest? Are they all the same anyway?
In general, as with the rest of life, you get what you pay for. In my opinion, Supreme Science Selective are the best extruded pellet available in the UK (Oxbow pellets for people in the USA). They have the highest crude fibre content and no added sugar – along with the correct ratios and percentages of other vitamins and nutrients. A close second is Burgess Excel Adult LIGHT. I specify the light version as this has no added sugar (unlike the regular adult version). The other great thing about these two brands is they offer a life stage option. Basically, rabbits over 4 years old should be fed a ‘mature’ version of the diet which has the percentages and ratios changed to better suit an ageing rabbits needs.
Oh and beware of the term ‘beneficial fibre’…this is a marketing term that makes the fibre content look higher than it is! Its always the crude fibre content that’s important.
At the lower end of the market (and diets I would not recommend) we have Allen & Page and Dodson & Horrell. These were born out of ‘breeder pellets’ and are generally low quality. They are lacking in essential vitamins and the pellet itself does not work the teeth as well as an ‘extruded’ pellet (like the above 2 examples).
For a more detailed comparison – check out this brilliant pellet food comparison table.
As always, the pellet part of a rabbits diet should be minimal – no more than 5% of its daily ration. 80% should be a choice of different good quality hays and 10-15% can be fresh food such as lovely herbs (basil, mint, coriander (cilantro) and parsley) or non root vegetables such as cabbage and kale (be aware that gassy veg for us can also be gassy veg for bunnies).
Lastly, all dietary changes should be made gradually over a 10 day period to minimise the risk of dietary upset.