Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


More than 240 rabbits die from heat after fair auction  

June 26, 2015 Merced Sun-Star 

More than 240 rabbits auctioned at the Merced County Fair died June 13 from the heat.

Fair officials said in a statement that the rabbits were auctioned June 11. Children in Future Farmers of America and 4-H raised the animals and auctioned them off for a total of $30,645, said Tom Musser, the chief executive officer for the fair.  “Nothing like this has ever happened before,” Musser said. “I’m about to retire after 40 years, and this is a first.”

In previous years, after the rabbits were auctioned off they were served at a dinner after the livestock auction. The dinner is held as a “thank you” to livestock buyers and rabbit and beef is served, Musser said. About 750 guests attended this year’s dinner.

In previous years, the rabbits were processed the same night of the auction. But this year, the processor couldn’t take them at that time, said Diane Booth Conway, a spokeswoman for the fair.

Instead, the rabbits were held Thursday night in a 30-foot trailer with wet wood shavings. The trailer was equipped with feeders and 3-gallon waterers for the rabbits and was open on the side for ventilation. The trailer was stored overnight at the home of Bert Crane, the fair board president.

According to the National Weather Service in Hanford, the temperature hit 99 that Friday. Half the rabbits died that night. More rabbits died Saturday. The remaining rabbits suffered from heat stress, Conway said, and were euthanized. Musser said the rabbits were buried.

Beth Caffrey, a spokeswoman for the Central California Animal Disaster team, said the rabbits need to be in air conditioning if the temperature rises above 84. Unlike other animals such as dogs, rabbits don’t have sweat glands on their lips. Therefore, they have no panting capabilities or a mechanism to deal with heat, Caffrey said. And when rabbits are stressed, they don’t drink water.

“When animals get to the level of heat stress,” Caffrey said, “it’s hard for them to recover. Without intervention they won’t be able to survive.”

The children who raised the rabbits received payment for them. “We respect our exhibitors and our buyers, but our best efforts failed,” Musser said in the statement.

Musser said the rabbits were properly cared for, but the heat was overwhelming for the animals. “The proper care and treatment of animals is always our highest priority,” Musser said. “We had the best intentions to care for the rabbits, but it just didn’t work in this weather. We are devastated.” 

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.

Read more: Exhibitions and fairs unfair to animals; BC gov't gives gaming grants; the 4-H message

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