The Year of the Rabbit begins on February 3 under the Chinese lunar calendar, but thousands of real bunnies are at risk of dying tortuous deaths as people rush to buy the animals as part of the celebration.
Countless revelers throughout Asia are scooping up adorable rabbits for the Chinese New Year because they see it as bringing them a bit of luck for the year ahead. Others are simply buying the animals as a way to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit.
Pet shops, street vendors and online retailers in China and all over Asia are having a hard time keeping up with the demand for the animals.
It all seems like harmless fun, but the truth is most of these rabbits will die from neglect, ignorance and abuse.
For months animal rights groups have been warning against buying the bunnies, but sadly nothing has dissuaded people from wanting to get their hands on them and the consequences are already mounting.
Dead rabbits have been found in dumpsters and mailboxes all over China.
The biggest offenders are those buying rabbits on the internet. According to The Shanghaiist there are hundreds of online retailers “trafficking mail-order rabbits.”
Instead of getting proper certification for shipping live animals, these companies simply put the rabbits in a box marked “fragile” and mail them like a letter.
The poor bunnies endure up to five days en route and usually end up dying because of suffocation or freezing to death. Then to make matters worse, the online stores require customers to mail back the dead rabbit in order to get a refund.
PETA issued a plea about the situation, “There’s no better time to help rabbits than during the Year of the Rabbit, and you can do so by refusing to support the pet trade that causes so many animals to suffer,” said Beijing-based PETA representative Maggie Chen.
“Rabbits aren’t just cute and fluffy, they are high-maintenance animals that require significant resources, equipment, attention and veterinary care,” Chen continued.
The Shanghai Daily warned that there are not enough veterinarians in China who are capable of treating rabbits, especially with the current high demand and they expressed concern that most people do not know how to properly care for the animals.
Hundreds of rabbits were abandoned during the Year of the Rabbit in 1999 and officials worry they will see the same problem in 2011.
Advocates are also concerned they will see other abuses that they witnessed in 1999. Some zoos have already started playing a game called Catch the Rabbit where a rabbit is released in with tigers for entertainment.
To prevent a rabbit crisis the Chinese government has issued statements about the difficulty of keeping a pet rabbit and advising the public to ask vendors for health certificates for the rabbits they buy. At least that will ensure the bunnies have been immunized and are healthy.
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