Ignorance is Deadly
by Alison Colby-Campbell
Sometimes I read irate comments from posters on rabbit blogs and fan pages that spew such animosity for people who don’t know about rabbits and my stomach tightens in the knowledge that I would have absolutely been on the receiving end of that vehemence about 15 years ago.
It was around Thanksgiving when our large group of about 8 people aged 10-70 got out of our cars at a trailhead on Mount Desert Island, ME near Jackson Laboratories. We all saw a large white rabbit in the underbrush that didn’t seem all that alarmed to see us or all that interested in bolting to safety. I remember saying aloud to the rabbit “Wow I didn’t know the rabbits that turned white in winter lived this far south. And this poor guy turned white before any snow could provide camouflage”. I stopped a few seconds to see if I could get closer to the animal. I did - not enough to touch him but pretty close - and he just edged away a bit; he never ran away. I wished him well then went ahead and caught up with the rest of my group. I am an animal lover and it never occurred to me that this rabbit had been discarded, that someone could look this creature in the eye and drop it off on the edge of the woods. I was an uninformed adult at the time.
I’ve since learned so much about rabbits (with tons more still to learn) but whenever I read about how white rabbits abandoned to the wild are the easiest target because they are so visible to predators, I hate myself a little. I could have saved a rabbit but missed my opportunity, and that poor rabbit most likely met a cruel and horrifying death after having spent some time as a pampered pet as long as it held its owner’s interest. Someone didn’t take the time to learn the depth of his/her responsibility for caring for a rabbit or honor the commitment he/she made to keep a rabbit they brought into their home. Maybe they think they did the honorable thing by returning the rabbit to nature. I mean the rabbit eats hay, there’s grass in the woods, and there are all those other wild rabbits to chum around with. And they would be wrong, dead wrong, as far as the rabbit is concerned.
Now I know that people abandon rabbits. Last year my sister found and rescued two abandoned rabbits in a reservation, and several years before that I rescued an abandoned guinea pig in a nature preserve. But that’s because we “know” now. I don’t think the animals I’ve rescued or adopted or transported can ever make up for that one bunny in Maine, and every time I pick up my rescued 10lb Californian and look into her beautiful ruby eyes I thank God someone else knew that this was an animal that needed saving.
I’m not writing this article to get the forgiveness I can’t give myself, but to ask that more people do a better job educating anyone who will listen. I’d like to recommend creating a media campaign that educates people that domestic rabbits are not being ”returned” to nature when they are set loose - they are being sentenced to a horrible death. Sure there are some people out there who won’t care (the cruel, evil people who get pleasure from torturing animals who I will denounce in the harshest of terms), but for the rest of us who want to do the right thing but don’t know what it is, before we draw and quarter them for their stupidity, let’s see if they’re open to a discussion pointing out the error of their thinking. With a little luck, they (as I did) can become advocates for our bunny friends.