Bad Luck for the Bunny: Lab tested, fur farmed, footless

At first glance, the Chinese Lunar New Year and Easter have little in common. On second glance, a long-eared furry creature hops through both. Is it possible to celebrate a new year and wax sentimental about a candy-bearing bunny while ignoring the atrocities faced by the family Leporidae?

The Chinese new year arrived in February, and with it, the Sign of the Rabbit (hare, in China). People born under this sign are said to have many desirable personality traits–kindness, sensitivity, and graciousness; good luck is usually mentioned, too. The oh-so-lucky rabbit!

Speaking of luck, remember rabbit’s foot keychains? They were ubiquitous in American culture–I had one as a kid in the ’50s. It was dyed an unnatural color, had a metal cap, and a metal bead chain. (Why I had it, how I got it, what I thought of it–these details are lost in the haze of intervening decades. From today’s vantage point, the whole scene is inexplicable, disgusting, and bizarre.) Sorry to say, (and many others) still sells them–just in case you’d like to have a word with them about it. They were considered lucky talismans for humans–but for the rabbit, not so much.

Aside: Is it possible to exploit exploitation? You betcha, baby!

If you’ve ever seen undercover footage of fur farming, you know there are no lucky bunnies there, either. Now imagine fur farming in China (you’re on your own for this one; try googling rabbit fur farming China–just reading through the hits is horror enough). Animal protection laws are nonexistent, and although China has drafted animal protection legislation, it seems likely that it hasn’t been adopted.

Why must sentient creatures–beings with emotional lives, who feel pain, who suffer–endure such hideous existences? Why?

“Rabbit is a very popular and economic component fur type and features strongly in many ready-to-wear lines as well as in street fashion,” according to a spokesman for the Hong Kong Fur Federation. (He’s quoted in “Fur Flies Over Wearing of Skins in Chinese Year of Rabbit”–read it here.) “Rabbit is very versatile and easy to work with which makes it popular with ‘fashionistas’ around the world.”

Ah, yes, the fashionistas–and the bottom line.

Easter–at least my 1950s childhood version–was also a time when dime stores offered up live, baby chicks dyed pastel colors. Peeping up a storm, the fuzzy pink, green, and blue ones tumbled over each other in their glass-sided display case. It would be nice to think that this exploitive practice passed with those less enlightened times, but recent evidence shows otherwise. What? ‘Baby chick yellow’ just isn’t enough for our insatiable appetite for novelty? Leaving aside, of course, the larger question, why?–why should anyone dye and sell a living, sentient being as a seasonal novelty? (This makes you wonder what other nefarious eHow tutorials are lurking out there…)

But I digress. Getting back to those Sign of the Rabbit personality traits–another trait frequently mentioned is longevity. Luck and longevity. A fur farmed rabbit has neither, and in that particular instance, a short life is a merciful thing.

This post first appeared at the Animal Blawg and in shorter form in Other Nations February newsletter.