Newsletter - Animal Writes © sm
19 April 2009 Issue

By Michelle Rivera

My editor, JJSwans, asked me to write a story on animals that are typically given as pets for Easter. We discussed the giving of bunnies, chicks and ducklings to small children on Easter morning, and I was off and running with my assigned research.

But then a co-worker mentioned to me that she saw Martha Stewart doing a demonstration on how to decorate eggs for Easter. She said “I think I am going to make dozens of them and give them away........I will probably end up throwing them all away, ha ha ha, but it will be fun making them.” This got me thinking about all the eggs that will be sold for coloring this year, only to be thrown out like used Christmas tinsel. So I decided to reeducate myself on the issue of the factory-farming of eggs, and was, once again, horrified to be reminded of the facts about hens and their eggs. For instance, in the wild, hens will build themselves a nest and lay 6-7 eggs in as many days. They are fiercely protective of these eggs, as much as a mother with a baby would be. Hen’s ovaries are controlled by light, which on a battery farm is regulated to simulate continuous summertime, which results in such a high output of eggs. We all know about the conditions on a battery farm. Five birds, with wingspans of 32 inches, are kept in cages only about 20 inches wide. Their feet are deformed, their beaks removed, and they can never perch, dust bathe or nest. And so-called “free range” eggs aren’t more humane. The farmers have no use for the males, and so they are killed by the millions by gassing, crushing, suffocating, decompression or drowning.

And then I thought about the millions of sweet-faced little pigs and piglets who will be slaughtered for “our Easter ham”; the millions of turkeys, geese and ducks that will be roasted in ovens across America; the pink and yellow marshmallow* bunnies and milk chocolate rabbits! So many issues! So many ways to exploit animals in the name of religion, tradition, ceremony and family gatherings!

*(marshmallows contain gelatin, which is a by-produce of the slaughter of cows)

But, like I said, my editor, JJ, has assigned to me a story on animals that are given as pets for Easter. So it is to this issue that I must restrain my article. But, gotcha thinking, right?

There is a company in West Palm Beach that offers special springtime events. During these events, they offered free baby bunnies at Easter time. Several years ago, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) launched a letter-writing campaign to stop this practice and was successful.

Why did activists in South Florida take stand against the giving of baby bunnies? Because shelter-workers everywhere will attest to the fact that bunnies end up in their facilities several months following the Easter holiday. And those are the lucky ones. Most bunnies are just “released” into the neighborhoods, woods, and other rural areas. These rabbits become easy prey for dogs, cats, cruelty, cars, snakes and territorial foraging animals. Raccoons, opossums and skunks don’t readily accept strange animals into their territory. Released pet-store bunnies don’t stand much of a chance against animals that have been wild all their lives.

The reasons these animals face such harsh life sentences is because, simply stated, bunnies don’t make the best pets, especially for little kids. And the pet stores exude lots and lots of Eastertime hype, so it’s important to know the facts. Rabbits are very sensitive. Toddlers are not. Small children can be rambunctious and LOUD, and this environment is quite stressful for nervous and sensitive rabbits. Children don’t typically value a rabbit's delicate nature, they much prefer playful animals. And contrary to popular belief, rabbits are not passive and cuddly. In fact, rabbits like to stay close to the ground. As prey animals, that is where they feel most secure. They become frightened and miserable when restrained (cuddled). Little children like to hold bunnies and carry them around much like a stuffed animal. But a stuffed animal has a lifespan of forever, whereas a rabbit’s life expectancy is ten years. How many small children can hold their interest in a plaything for ten years? How many moms and dads want to take on the responsibility of caring for a rabbit for a decade?

Rabbits are also high-maintenance animals. In fact, they require more work than does a dog or cat! Rabbits kept in hutches outdoors will almost certainly die within a year due to outdoor predators, weather extremes, boredom, loneliness, depression and anorexia. Indoor, “house rabbits” can live much longer, provided they don’t chew through live electrical cords. They also are great chewers of favorite books, and furniture. If left intact (not spayed or neutered), they will mark your house with feces and urine.

According to the House Rabbit Society “As rabbits have increased in popularity, they are suffering the same fate as our other companion animals -- abandonment......It's a sad fact that no matter where you live, you are within 10 miles of a rabbit who needs a home”.

This is a sobering fact and one that we cannot ignore.

Other animals that are exploited at Easter are ducklings and chicks. So let's be realistic. How many of us can readily manage to raise a duck or chicken in an urban environment? Some of us may have farms or acreage with ponds where these animals can thrive and grow. But even if we have the environmental necessities to house a duckling or chicken, we would do well to look into our crystal balls and see what a future would hold for us and for the baby ducks and chickens we bring home just so we can enjoy the look of surprise and delight on a child’s face that lasts a few moments. The misery inflicted on a displaced baby animal can last a lifetime. Animals need to procreate and without a partner they will become lonely and desperate. Do we really need to start a spay/neuter program for pet ducks and chicks now? Don’t we have enough unwanted animals in the world who were bred for “pets” but now roam the street or await death in a pound somewhere?

Ducks and geese are routinely bought and sold by people wanting to use these animals as “ornamentals” in their ponds or pools. Luckily, there is not a big market for these animals, but a market does exist. There are all sorts of resources for people who wish to raise ducks and geese in an environment that is conducive to the successful breeding and welfare of these animals. And while animal-rights advocates and the people engaged in the business of raising “ornamental ducks and geese” are light years away from agreeing about the philosophy of owning animals for this purpose, there is one issue on which we can wholeheartedly agree: these animals are not suitable pets for little children. Children can easily crush tiny, fragile avian bones and kill a baby bird in a New York minute. Aside from the obvious cruelty to the baby duck, chick or gosling, think of how the child will feel having killed his pet. Out of necessity the parents will have to soothe the child with lies about how the animal died painlessly, or how we can “always get another one”; thus teaching their children that animal lives are worthless.

One can never have too many stuffed rabbits, chickens and ducks! Just ask the Ty Beanie Baby company, they’ll tell you all about it! Colorfully wrapped (vegan) chocolate eggs, plastic eggs filled with non-gelatin jelly beans, and story books about the true meaning of Easter would make far better gifts for small children this holiday.

I suggest we start a new tradition this Easter season. Let us tell our children the story of how the late, beautiful Linda McCartney and her famous husband Paul where having lunch at home one sunny afternoon. Their table overlooked a hill. As Linda and Paul looked out their window, they observed gentle lambs grazing on a hill. To their horror, they realized that on their plates where lamb chops and a sobering connection was made. They shared an epiphany! They were revolted by what they perceived as a terrible waste of resplendent, precious animal lives. It was that moment that this famous couple began their crusade for vegetarianism, and later became PETA’s most famous spokespersons. Fox networks’ “The Simpsons” made this story famous in one of their episodes, and the story has been retold in Linda’s cook books and PeTA’s Animal Times magazine. It’s a beautiful story, one of rebirth, redemption, forgiveness, sacrifice and courage.

Much like the story of Jesus dying on the cross, the OTHER Easter story.

Go on to Is Dissection All It's Cut Out To Be
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