Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Activists speak out while UVic officials mull lethal control 

The long-standing UVic rabbit issue has yet gain garnered considerable media coverage and debate.  What should be done with the rabbits?  There's lots of talk and concern over the University's next move.  Volunteers are patrolling the grounds at night looking for suspicious activity, and generally staying on high alert.  There are several Facebook groups that provide current information.  In addition to local animal rescue/advocacy societies, other like-minded groups like Best Friends and PETA are being kept apprised of the situation. 

Some of the media coverage has been rather unavourable, with misinformation being presented to the public. 

Don't fall down the rabbit hole, April 8, 2010, Macleans excerpt: Sure they’re cute, but Richard Piskor, UVic’s director of occupational health, safety and environment, says rabbits also bring trouble. “The sheer volume of feces on the fields is remarkable,” he says. “So the potential for [human] infection is there.” Burrowing is another problem. Piskor said a staff member was injured while walking across a field pitted with rabbit holes; he ended up in the hospital with broken teeth. Then there’s the damage to trees, which are being debarked, and to the rabbits themselves.  

An online reader's opinion is that Mr. Piskor appears unduly worried about the risk of disease from rabbits, whereas it's human to human contact that is a very real threat.  As to the staff member tripping and falling, perhaps clumsiness, inattention, or alcohol.  Who knows. 

University of Victoria Rabbit Cull?, April 7, 2010, GreenMuze excerpt:

Without question it is a lot cheaper to hire an exterminator organization to destroy all the rabbits than it is to humanely trap them, neuter or spay the animals and spend the time, energy and money to find proper homes for the bunnies.

Carmina Gooch, RAG BC: UVic’s rabbit situation is the result of years of inaction by the administration, the pet industry exploiting them for profit, people buying on impulse, no bylaws with regard to breeding, lack of education on care and such, and the fact that rabbits are considered as disposable or starter pets for kids.

With regard to the writer’s statement that it is a lot “cheaper” to hire an extermination company, I strongly disagree. The financial cost may initially appear to be less costly. However, ‘culling' has not proven to be sustained or cost-effective with populations of deer, for example. Others quickly fill vacated ecological niches. The same holds true for feral cats. There could also be a "compensatory rebound effect as a reproductive response of a species by which a sudden increase in food resources, due to a sudden decrease in the population, induces a high reproductive rate."

The public looks to educational institutions as places of "higher" knowledge and ethical principles, and expects that decision-makers show both wisdom and compassionate leadership. In its position of power over the rabbits and other animal species calling UVic campus home I suggest that humane solutions are pursued. There is no such thing as a "quick-fix."

Lethal control is not a message to send our young people. Humans are responsible for this; with the constant development and destruction of habitat, we’re demonstrating a total disregard and lack of compassion for the lives of other species. The repercussions and costs are deadly: a violent society with no future. Sadly, it’s the innocent creatures and all the beauty of nature we’re taking along on our path of ruin.

Solution needed for unwanted bunnies April 13, 2010 Terrace Standard

The University of Victoria has a feral bunny population it will never reduce so long as it tries to satisfy the whims of every PETA-like group on the North American continent. Animal rights groups have the university tied in knots trying to satisfy their demands that no rabbit be harmed. If chicken and cattle farmers followed PETA’s thinking, fast food restaurants would close.

Comment by Carmina re: "If chicken and cattle farmers followed PETA’s thinking, fast food restaurants would close.”  That would be great; healthier people, less animals slaughtered, less impact on the environment, and a more compassionate society.  To correct some of the misinformation Ms. Sandecki is presenting, it should be noted that the veterinarian community offered to do sterilizations at minimal cost, UVic officials failed to implement exclusion methods, and the rabbits were for the most part, healthy.  Additionally, the number of campus rabbits has been exaggerated.  I suggest the writer contemplate some humane and ethical solutions for these creatures, rather than condoning lethal measures.  Would she suggest the same for the overpopulated human race?  

Activists visit UVic campus
By Roslyn Cassells - April 13, 2010

Social justice activists visited the campus at the University of Victoria yesterday to bring a message of non-violence and ecological and social responsibility around the treatment of abandoned pet rabbits living there.

Their visit and its message received good media coverage, with interviews with the CBC, Black Media, CFRO, and political columnists and bloggers.

The community is concerned because, despite the success of non-lethal population control programs elsewhere, the current administration has announced a massive night-time kill of the friendly bunnies.  Kelowna and Vernon in this province, Calgary, Alberta and Long Beach College in California have all instituted sterilization programs, public education campaigns, and improved rabbit protection bylaws.  UVic has for years resisted calls by the community to take responsibility for what is ultimately a problem of human origin.

The activists handed out information sheets detailing links to community groups, facebook pages, a blog, a petition site, and a long list of political, university, and media contacts for the purpose of taking action against UVic's disturbing plan to kill these innocent animals.

Community organizers from diverse movements showed their solidarity with the campaign against the rabbit killing.  Concerns were also raised over the university's bulldozing of a garden on campus with plantings by students, staff, faculty and the first nations community. 

Local resistance to the current administration's stance is widespread.  Also common are tales of harassment of dissident students and staff by campus administrators.  Students shared stories of receiving threats of academic sanctions for political activities, and faculty and staff divulged similar concerns - citing worry over ongoing employment, including threats and insinuations about the effect of their private activities on their careers.

Activists also noticed aggressive behaviour directed at them by of certain employees from the Communications Department at UVic, as well as staff from Facilities Management.  In addition to behaving belligerently towards the activists, they followed and tried to provoke them.  They demanded to know the identities of the activists, their addresses, how long they were staying on campus, and what their plans were for the day. Some of the staff identified themselves and their positions, others denied they were staff but were later seen driving UVic vehicles on campus. This continued until an activist was followed into the toilet by a member of the Facilities Management staff.  The activist, concerned for her personal safety, threatened to call the police.  After this, the admin staff retreated to a distance to watch and record.

Despite their hostile reception on campus, the activists continued with their message of respect for nature and the community... inviting the university to join them in their campaign to bring non-lethal population control programs to the campus.  A number of local veterinarians are willing to donate their time and provide necessary veterinary care and sterilization to the rabbits.  A plethora of volunteers from all sectors of society are willing to donate their time to support this worthwhile and popular effort.

Roslyn Cassells is a BC based social justice activist and Canada's first elected Green.  She is an ardent animal and human rights activist, and writes, teaches and campaigns for positive social, economic and ecological change everywhere.

Note: Contraception techniques for animals are being widely researched and studied.  For example, fertility control methods for ungulate species include mechanical contraception, immunocontraception, and synthetic steroid hormones.  Australian scientists have found that slow-release deslorelin implants can successfully inhibit reproduction for extended periods in the female eastern grey kangaroos.  Dr. Donal Skinner of the University of Wyoming has researched deslorelin use on rodents and has remarked that the injections have been used to control Wyoming’s coyote population.

April 20, 2010: Caring citizens everywhere have contacted UVic officials with humane solutions and offers of help in reducing the rabbit population. There’s no excuse for a mass kill. Society is becoming less accepting of authorities killing innocent animals, when it’s people who are to blame. Surely, an institution of higher learning should be able to figure this out, challenging though it might be. 

Long Beach City College is the first known effort to apply feline TNR (trap/neuter/return) principles to a rabbit colony. Best Friends’ bunny outreach specialist, Debby Widolf, has been part of the ‘village’ that is making the undertaking a success. She has provided UVic administration with plenty of material. One can only hope the decision-makers of today will demonstrate compassionate leadership and value for life, rather than archaic and deadly measures of a bygone era. Keep the pressure on – your support is crucial to saving lives!  

Form reply on behalf of Tom Smith, Executive Director, Facilities Management, University of Victoria.   

Thank you for your recent correspondence expressing your concern about the future of the feral rabbit population on the grounds of the University of Victoria campus. We are reviewing all of the correspondence we have received on this issue and the suggestions, thoughts, and views will all be taken into consideration when we draft our long-term rabbit management plan.

We understand that this is a very emotional issue for many people and we maintain that as we have maintained all along,  there will always be a continued presence for rabbits on campus, however, we must find ways to reduce their numbers, especially in areas that we have designated rabbit-free for health, safety and heritage preservation reasons. Any future actions the university takes in this regard will be in consultation with the BCSPCA and Ministry of the Environment. 

The petition and comments by readers to news articles demonstrate a large amount of support for the rabbits, and at the same time frustration with the UVic administration.   

- What is required here is the establishment of values. If UVic wants to handle the rabbits ethically, it can be done. If UVic is more interested in 'convenience' then it will adopt lethal strategies which will stain more than the green grass.

- UVic has for years complained about the rabbits, yet has used them to attract faculty and students alike. Heaven forbid the University would actually educate students and residents by finding solutions while making a humane choice.

- This is horrible! If UVic cares so little for such helpless little beings, how little does a human life mean?

- Stop the atrocities!

- Has anyone actually seen a tree or plant harmed by the rabbits? Treewatch asked UVIC Admin but got no response (and has anyone seen any huge muscled soccer players injured by the timid little furbearers? Wouldn't the games played on the sport fields churn up more holes in the wet ground that any rabbit could?)

April 21, 2010 Rally for Rabbits. Activists gathered at the University of Victoria today.  They say, the school is killing the rabbits right now, and plans a massive cull in the near future. That's something the University denies.  They admit they may kill some of the rabbits, but they're still looking at a long term management plan to try and control the feral rabbit population. There are an estimated 1500 rabbits on campus.  The school says the animals cause thousands of dollars in damage - tearing up playing fields and burrowing under buildings.  

Listen here to the entire broadcast by A-Channel News. News Spot

Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages. Thomas Edison