Year of the Rabbit brings campaigns for rabbits

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2011:


HONG KONG–Will the Year of the Rabbit bring anything good for rabbits?
Starting on February 3, 2011, the Year of the Rabbit is
recognized throughout the world by ethnic Chinese people, and by
many other Asians who share Chinese traditions. If nothing else,
the Year of the Rabbit afforded activists an opportunity to raise a
voice for rabbits.
“There’s no better time to help rabbits than during the Year
of the Rabbit,” declared Beijing-based PETA campaigner Maggie Chen to
Agence France-Presse, urging readers to “not support the pet trade
that causes so many animals to suffer.” PETA also “launched an ad
campaign imploring Chinese movie star Gong Li to curb her penchant
for wearing rabbit and other furs,” reported Denis D. Gray of
Associated Press, from Bangkok, Thailand. “The ad shows a woman’s
foot stepping on the neck of a dead rabbit next to the words, ‘Where
Does Gong Li Stand on Fur?’

“The International Union for the Conservation of Nature is
stressing that, despite their reputation as prolific love-makers,
nearly one in four rabbits, hares and pikas are threatened with
extinction,” Gray continued. “Asian species under siege include the
Sumatran striped rabbit, hispid hare, Amami rabbit and the Annamite
striped rabbit, only discovered by scientists in 1995. The
endangered ili pika has disappeared from half of its known locations
in northwestern China since it was first described some 30 years ago.”
Hong Kong SPCA director of welfare Fiona Woodhouse, VMD,
and Rabbit Society spokesperson Joanna Chow Yuk-ha also addressed the
traffic in rabbits as pets. Following a 3% rise in rabbit surrenders
in 2010, they anticipated a further increase of 30% to 40% in 2011.
“Rabbits are emotional and aware of being abandoned. It’s
heartbreaking to see a little bunny leaning by the window, head
down, knowing she has been abandoned,” Chow told Serinah Ho of the
Hong Kong Standard.
ACTAsia for Animals executive director Pei F. Su addressed
the use of rabbit fur in China with a Twitter campaign reaching 1.5
million people, she estimated.
Animals Asia Foundation founder Jill Robinson addressed the
use of rabbits for meat. “We’ve just returned from a week-long
investigation of some of China’s live animal markets, where the
rabbits were bludgeoned to death,” Robinson posted in rebuttal to
rabbit fur industry claims that byproduct fur from the rabbit meat
industry is “humane.”
Only chickens are raised and slaughtered in China in greater
numbers than rabbits. China has in fact led the world in rabbit
production since 1958, when global statistics were first assembled,
and has perhaps always led the world in rabbit production, since
China is where rabbits first were domesticated, millennia ago, and
were first kept in small hutches. Indeed, rabbits may have been the
first “factory farmed” species. Currently about 450 million rabbits
per year are killed for meat in China, amounting to between a
quarter and half of global output. About 235 million rabbits are on
Chinese farms at any given time, according to Lai Zhiqiang and Cai
Xioyan of the Guangxi Institutes of Animal Sciences, in a 2008 paper
entitled Rabbit Resources of China. China sells about 15 to 20
million rabbit pelts per year, Lai Zhiqiang and Cai Xioyan reported,
making China the only major exporter of rabbit fur, they said.
Year of the Rabbit campaigners hope to change attitudes
toward rabbits much as attitudes were changed on behalf of dogs
during the two most recent Years of the Dog. Previously, the Year
of the Dog was rarely auspicious for dogs. 1910, for example,
brought famine and a rise in dog-eating to Korea, following a
Japanese invasion. In 1922 the Chinese Communist Party declared that
dogs are social parasites. The notoriously dog-hating Mao Tse Tung
became head of the Chinese Communist Party in 1934, began his rise
to national rule in 1946, and in 1958 purged both dogs and
songbirds, blaming them for a famine caused chiefly by poor economic
planning that killed millions of people.
The 1994 Year of the Dog both began and ended in Beijing with
dog massacres in the name of rabies control–but late in the year
city officials acknowledged that the Beijing pet dog population had
trebled despite the killing and began promoting licensing and
vaccination instead. The licensing fee was reduced three times
before the next Year of the Dog, in 2006. 2006 also began and ended
with dog massacres rationalized in the name of rabies control, but
mostly in smaller cities in outlying provinces. Throughout the year
Chinese state media amplified activist exposure of the killings and
often pointed out that vaccination had eradicated rabies in the
Beijing region.

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