Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


4-H kids breeding rabbits instead of being educated as to spay and neuter 

When it comes to animals, the 4-H is totally behind the times.  In this day and age, there are changing attitudes and recognition of animals as sentient beings, who have the right to enjoy life, and who are not to be regarded as resources to be exploited by humans.  The Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC was recently contacted by a 4-H family member from Salt Spring Island who was troubled by the club’s overemphasis on breeding rabbits. 

Part of the letter from June, 2009:  

I would like to remind you that the BC 4H by way of 4H rabbit projects also actively promotes the breeding of rabbits. Members breed the rabbits in order to "achieve" in the 4H club, but after they achieve they are left to deal with their surplus rabbits, which they do primarily by selling (in many places they sell to pet stores) and giving them away (who isn't tempted by a baby bunny?) and in some cases, when they can't get rid of them, by allowing them to go into the care of a rescue organization, or by setting them lose. Although I highly respect and value the traditions of the 4H with regard to providing leadership and teaching responsibility in animal care, in their rabbit projects they do their members and their communities a great disservice.

We were recently told by a local club member (who had been taught that neutered animals may not be used), as well as by a district 4H leader, that neutered rabbits would be disqualified from participating at district and provincial 4H events -this was most upsetting for my daughter, as I will only let her participate with neutered animals to ensure that we will not have any "accidents" during club activities, and as
so many of the project units are concerned with the breeding of rabbits, and as many of the other children and youth in her club often experience the enjoyment of raising new litters, she was already feeling at a considerable disadvantage, the most recent information only served to further discourage her. While it is argued that historically 4H is oriented around agricultural practices, including the raising of meat rabbits, the reality is that many, possibly most of the children and youth are actually breeding smaller pet and/or fancy varieties for an already oversaturated pet market. Although the BC4H claims that their goal is youth development -

The Goal: Youth Development Statistics show that less than one out of every ten current 4-H members will have a future in farming or ranching. Thus, 4-H project work must be a means to an end rather than an end in itself. The 4-H program therefore designs its projects to prepare youth for their future as adult citizens of any community, not just rural or farm communities. 4-H project work not only promotes knowledge, skill development and self-confidence, but instills pride and a sense of cooperation among BC youth and adult volunteers. Through this, the goal of the 4-H program can be realized, the personal development of youth. (http://www.bc4h.bc.ca/about/projects.html) the rabbit projects make little or no provision for the responsible ownership of pet rabbits -rather they overemphasize the breeding of rabbits:

Members will learn about the parts of a rabbit, showmanship, care and feeding, as well as general health with rabbits.

In the rabbit project members are encouraged to raise one buck and two does, although with the discretion of the club leader, a member may raise a lesser number.

The Rabbit project has 6 units. These units include:

I. Rabbit Raising

  • Exhibit one rabbit at achievement day.

II. Rabbit Breeding

  • Exhibit one doe and her litter at achievement day.

III. Market Project

  • Raise minimum of two litters from at least one doe and exhibit three meat animals.

IV.Breeding Project

  • Raise at least 5 rabbits for breeding.

V.Commercial Rabbit Raising

  • Raise a minimum of 25 rabbits from birth to fryer age for home use or sale.

VI.Advanced Skill Project  

Upon approval from leader member must choose a project related to the rabbit project. 

I have written to local, district and provincial 4H leaders about my concerns with regard to these matters, and where I was hoping my daughter's club might have rallied to support her in her use of a neutered animal by advocating for changes in district shows and provincial achievement requirements, I was instead chastised and reprimanded for expressing my concerns (I did not even get a reply to the concerns that I had forwarded to the provincial office at mail@bc4h.bc.ca).   

Apparently there is a process to bringing about change in Provincial 4H requirements:
In order to make a Provincial change in 4-H the process is as follows: 

1.  Formal request for change to come from club to district.

2.  District discusses at district meeting and if all other clubs are in favour then the request is taken to Region.

3.  Regional Council discusses amongst the 6 other regions and they take back to their districts and then information comes back to next Regional meeting.  If all are in favour then regional will send formal request to B.C. 4-H (Provincial).

4.  Provincial then discusses with the five other regions and if it is passed then the changes will be made by the administration team or Ministry of Ag wherever necessary to be changed.

-however, this process would require support at the local level -and as we have in no way realized such support for our concerns at the local level- we were blocked at the very first step of the process.

I am hoping that the media will join with animal advocacy groups in questioning the irresponsible and unethical breeding of rabbits for 4H projects. I think there could be room for the practice of breeding and raising meat rabbits - in those cases where individuals have a proven market for the meat product -and it can be shown that the animals are being humanely raised and slaughtered; however, the majority of children and youth who have rabbits are not raising meat rabbits, and many, if not most 4H rabbit club/project members who are breeding rabbits are breeding for the enjoyment of having new litters and to meet 4H achievement requirements, and in the process they are adding to already serious rabbit overpopulation problems. It is my sincere hope that in the future the 4H will take a leadership position in working with other interested parties toward solutions to our rabbit overpopulation problems, and perhaps also toward the development of humane animal welfare policies for rabbit care and the raising of rabbits for agricultural/meat, and that they will forgo the unnecessary practices of breeding for achievement or requiring intact breeding animals for 4H showing.   

June 15, 2009 

From: Carmina Gooch, President
Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC
To: 4-H Club BC
Cc: BC SPCA, Gulf Islands Driftwood
Re: Prolific breeding of companion rabbits

Dear Sirs/Mesdames: 

The Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC is concerned with the continuing trend of 4-H club members throughout the province breeding companion rabbits, many of which are supplied to pet stores, with others used in petting zoos or passed around to organizations like ARBA for show /breeding purposes, and others discarded into the environment.  Some, like the rabbits at Kilby Historic Site, were bred for the tourism trade, existing in deplorable conditions, and when they were of no use taken to Fraser Valley Auctions.

We personally brought this to the attention of the District of Kent, (among others) and while the specific situation was addressed, the 4-H Club has done nothing to promote the welfare, spay/neuter, and care of the European or "pet" rabbit.  http://www.rabbitadvocacy.com/rabbits_of_kilby.htm   

Several years ago the Salt Spring Island Conservancy noticed that rabbit-caused damage was appearing in different spots on the Island and "threatening" the ecological integrity.  The public has been encouraged to report rabbit sightings, and while pet dumping is illegal under the PCA Act, many people choose this method to get rid of their unwanted, and unaltered rabbit.  Rabbit colonies can be found in many BC municipalities like Victoria, Richmond, Nanaimo, and until recently, Kelowna.  

With all the problems associated with the pet industry, with rescue groups and humane societies at over-capacity with rabbits waiting to be rehomed, and with abandoned bunnies reproducing like mad, why is the 4-H not providing leadership by teaching its young members the importance of having their rabbits spayed or neutered?  In all of the six rabbit project categories, members are encouraged to breed, whether it's on a small scale or a commercial scale.  We certainly don't need kids growing up to be irresponsible adults, exploiting animals they have no intention of 'keeping' for a lifetime.  It's bad enough that they are taught that animals are resources to be used, betrayed, and slaughtered for the meat industry.  Since when did the 4-H decide to exploit rabbits as pets?  In the past they were considered livestock and breeding was of meat rabbits. 

There is an increasing ethical movement in society that recognizes that animals are sentient beings, and not ours to be used and discarded at a whim.  The Rabbit Advocacy Group has been in contact with several people on Salt Spring Island who are concerned with the 4-H club encouraging the indiscriminate breeding of rabbits, and its failure to promote acceptable animal welfare standards in housing.  Battery-style cages are cruel and a thing of the past.  Perhaps the local SPCA could look into this matter.   

A cooperative, respectful, and practical approach that benefits animals, humans, and the environment is essential to creating a harmonious community.  We would be pleased to participate in a program that would promote a better understanding of rabbits with both short and long-term solutions being addressed.  


Carmina Gooch,
Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC
North Vancouver 

We have yet to receive from any of the parties contacted, and never did.

Comment: The 4-H claims to teach respect for others, but the reality is that impressionable young children are taught disloyalty, and betrayal when it comes to animals.  Animals they've befriended and loved, killed and sold for meat, all in the name of profit.  Every year kids cry when they have to bring their cows, pigs, lambs, or other living creature to the fair for judging. They know what's going to happen; their beloved animals are going to be slaughtered.  They feel guilty.  They know it's wrong to trade an animal's life for a paycheque.  

The message 4-H and Future Farmers of America are telling kids is that it's okay to exploit lives if there's money to be made, and that everything has a price.  This is totally inappropriate and irresponsible for society.  What should be taught is compassion and kindness; good solid morals for making the world a better place for all inhabitants.  Not insensitivity and betrayal.  Our future depends on it. 

A posting on Craigslist demonstrates the backwards mentality of people who view rabbits as multi-purpose commodities.

rabbits meat, pet, 4H
20 Aug 2009 ... WE HAVE MEAT RABBITS - CAN BE SHOW OR 4H OR PETS OR MEAT. ALL ARE HANDLED DAILY BY KIDS.....columbus.craigslist.org/ (the post was deleted by the author)

Some photos from the 2012 Pacific National Exhibition

Exhibitions and fairs unfair to animals; BC gov't gives gaming grants; the 4-H message; petting zoo problems; PNE 2018, 2022 fair outrage

June 26, 2015 More than 240 rabbits die from heat after fair auction

Comment: We contacted the newspaper about this inexcusable and heartbreaking situation. Firstly, that our young people are still being indoctrinated with the message that animals are mere objects to be used for financial gain is totally out of touch with society’s evolving views. Animals have inherent value other than what we’ve attributed to them and deserve so much better. 

In addition, children know that animals are sentient beings and that what they are doing is a betrayal of trust. Do we really want to continue to live in such a harsh world where the value of a life is reduced to a material good? We’ve seen where that’s gotten us and it’ll only get worse unless there’s a radical transformation of thought. 

All those involved in the gross negligence that caused these rabbits to suffer and die during this heatwave should be held to account and prosecuted for felony animal cruelty. They had a duty to provide proper care and failed to do so. If human lives were lost in this manner you can be sure that heads would roll.

August 25, 2015 Tearful ending for PNE's 4-H kids after year of loving care for animals

August 26, 2015 comment: We contacted The Province reporters who covered the PNE’s 4-H Auction advising them as to the early and deep indoctrination of 4-H children who are repeatedly exposed to a message of violence, betrayal, and disrespect to sentient beings, portraying non-human animals as expendable commodities to be exchanged for money. Animal agriculture is an immoral and dirty business; that of a bygone era. The media should not be a conduit for such a message. Even kids know better; thus the tears.  

Thankfully, Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) brought attention to this unsavory event by staging a disruption.

Our treatment of non-human beings can be a catalyst for a more just and compassionate society, or it can be a symptom of a society that has lost its moral compass.

“Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.”  Bradley Miller

See: The rabbits of Kilby

Petting zoos; E.coli; risky & outdated, Stanley Park farmyard closes; Park Board goat case, FVA; Dolittle probe, Maple Ridge; 2020 updates; Ontario's roadside zoos