Cats, Dog and Rabbits, don't we just love our pets or do we? Well not all equally that’s for sure. Dogs, man's best friend who shares our house and lives are without doubt the homeliest of them all. We take them for walk in the rain in any weather to do their, well you know, business. Cats, don't we just love them, care free, we are there obedient servants happily feeding them when they come in and you don't have to walk them, they do their, business, in the neighbour's garden. Both greet you when you come home, Cats with the look of disdain that you went out in the first place, Dogs mostly barking wildly and ecstatic that your home. Rabbits, well some live in the garden in large enclosures and hop over to their owners when they go to them, others live in the house much like a Dog and greet you when you come home in their quiet way. Oh and their business, well that makes great compost. Some people walk their rabbits on leads but they are not in the public eye as much as Cats and Dogs and maybe therein lies the problem, public perception.
But there is a difference and the difference is down to how they are treated if they damage native plants or animals. Cats kill the odd million small animals and birds, some native species, some endangered but no action is taken against them. Recently when Auckland Council talked about trapping and euthanizing non microchipped cats, there was a public uproar. Rabbits damage native plants and many people are happy, including Cat and Dog owners, to kill them in the most inhumane manner possible. Rabbit owners are, quite rightly up in arms about the release of a new virus which the current vaccine is said, by those wishing to release the virus, to protect against. How can they publicly make such a bold statement time and time again when the vaccine has only ever been tested for a maximum of 30 days against the new virus? What does a 30 day test prove? In reality, nothing at all. The vaccine should be tested for 366 days but that was not possible because at the end of 30 days the test animals were euthanized. Why? Did they know the test animals would die 60, 90, 120 days later?
I am sure no one would accept their doctor giving them a vaccine for a deadly virus which had only been tested for 30 days. Would Cat owners accept this method of culling Cats knowing that their moggy was vaccinated with a vaccine only tested for 30 days? I think not. So why inflict this on Rabbit owners?
Why the difference in how we treat our pets? Death of native animals and or damage to a plant species, which is worse? The possible extinction of a native bird must surely rate higher, but it does not. The question is why? Native birds and animals are not related to money or big business. They should be - The tourist industry would suffer from the loss of native birds. Big business and money is the driver behind the need to control wild Rabbits, behind the wish to kill them inhumanely and who spread the word that pet owners need not worry, a 30 day test proves 366 day protection. A test that fails OIE standards and does not meet the requirements of proof of an annual vaccination. Should we believe them? The test authors say their test may not be robust and the results can only be validated with a field trial and should be repeated with more animals. These words and analysis of OIE standards tells us that the only true test is a 3, 6, 9 and 12 month test. So, who should we trust? Not money and big business for sure. Look at the state of our waterways, look at the state of our bee population, Maui dolphins, how much longer before they are driven to extinction? Do you care? You should. The Enderby Rabbit, now only found in New Zealand are on the verge of extinction.
Should we allow big business and money to drive how we treat or endanger our furry friends? Should we allow them to release viruses into our pristine and natural landscape? A virus that everyone in the population then unknowingly ingests with their fresh fruit and vegetables? Did you know you do that? I bet you didn't.
Our environment and the animals in it are suffering due to the drive for ever bigger flows of money and that cannot be the only driver. But that is how our system is geared and we need to change it. To continue to pollute the land with more viruses, more poisons and more chemicals is not sustainable. We do not know the long term effect of these on either the environment or ourselves. Man has been proved wrong so many times in the past, will we ever learn? Viruses mutate and eventually jump species, they have been doing that long before man. Ebola is a classic example of that innate drive to mutate and jump species which viruses have. The endemic virus has already mutated into 27 different genetic strains, what will it do next?
On the bigger scale, the world scale, we are destroying 80,000 hectares of rain forest every year, 27% of coral reefs have already been lost and it is forecast that 50% of the world's species will disappear within the next 100 years. As a country we should put a stake in the ground and say, not here, not in New Zealand. We will preserve our landscape and all the creatures within it. We should not allow any more pristine land to be destroyed, we must drive out viruses, poisons and man-made chemicals. We must save the Bees, the 53 New Zealand species that are endangered and the 34 that are vulnerable. We must put animal welfare high on our agenda and make any inhumane action illegal. We should stand tall and by respecting our environment and animals, raise our own self-respect. Jobs can be created and so can wealth in doing so.
We should think more carefully and as a population care more about our environment and the creatures we share it with. We cannot justify inhumane treatment to sentient animals. No one would accept their pet moggy dying in agony or their children seeing the death, why should it be different for Rabbits. It should not.
Stand tall New Zealand, stand up for what is right. Stand up for the Environment, Stand up for Animals lets show the world how it should be done.
Gary Paul Stephenson
Environmental Author and Blogger.