Monday, July 12, 2010

Domestic vs Wild.......

Domestic rabbits are not native to the western hemisphere, they are all descended from European wild rabbits.  Hence, the stories one might hear regarding domestic rabbits being released to the wild and then having offspring as a result of breeding with native American wild species of rabbit are likely untrue.  I say likely because it seems to be the case that domestic and wild rabbits will have sex, but if pregnancy results..the offspring are born dead.  I wouldn't rule out offspring surviving, but this probably would result in a situation similar to that of the breeding of horses with donkeys where the offspring (mules) are sterile.  More information can be found here or here.

Domestic rabbits, like non-Native Americans, did not originate in North America.  European humans arrived here in numbers large enough to be significant a little over 500 years ago, domestic rabbits are more recent Europeans, arriving here in the 19th century.

Therefore, the not unusual situation where a unwanted rabbit "pet" is released into the wild in the United States usually results in a short miserable life and the former "pet" becomes the victim of starvation, lack of shelter or a predator.  Their often striking fur colors make them easily visible to predators.

Domestic rabbits are not adapted to living here, they have not been raised in the wild, they have not been  taught how to survive by their parents and thinking they will magically acquire such skills and adaptive behaviors is almost criminally ignorant.  Their European origin is one reason that domestic rabbits are so susceptible to heat-stroke.  Any temperature above 85 degrees puts them at risk, hence Oklahoma summers are potentially deadly for domestic rabbits.

The mere existence of domestic rabbits exemplifies human interference with and exploitation of other animals.  Rabbits were manipulated (in their choice of breeding partners) by humans so they could be eaten or for fur, or because we thought they were amusing, or pretty or interesting or useful.

The mother rabbit and her babies highlighted in the previous post are appealing and sweet and a pleasure to interact with.  The fact is though, that she and her children are doomed to being dependent on humans for any sort of reasonable, comfortable (to whatever degree possible) life.  The mere existence of "domesticated" (substitute human-dependent for domesticated) species of any kind exemplifies human arrogance, insensitivity and exploitation.

What is difficult to understand about the notion that a living being has a right to live her or his own life....however they might choose to live, to have sex with whomever they wish, to choose their own friends, raise their own children, live wherever they find suitable?  The majority of humans would wish for autonomy in their own lives but most appear to find the idea of according such to our fellow Earthlings an astonishing thought.

It is phenomenal when you think about it, choosing to live your life in a way wherein one avoids, wherever possible, exploiting or doing violence to other living beings is considered peculiar, strange, unusual, weird.  There is even a specific name for it (vegan) where there is not a specific designation (although Melanie Joy's recent book takes a stab at naming this type of living) for conducting a life where it is routine to do violence and killing and controlling of other sentient beings or to pay someone to do these things.

The incongruousness involved in someone saying they care about or "love" animals while eating a hamburger, or eggs or cheese is profound, tragic and sad.  Perhaps a child could make such a statement innocently, but for most such a contradiction can be maintained only through the assiduous exercise of denial and avoidance.

Cultures are powerful vehicles for managing human thought and behavior, there can be few greater examples of that power than believing that behaving violently or paying for violence to be done is a normal, good and desirable way of living.....and that ignoring this reality makes it not exist.

The power of the propaganda and thought distortions that are foisted upon us from birth are potent and effective, I fault no one for succumbing to them (myself included), however, one of the primary responsibilities of adulthood is to give up believing in fairy tales and to begin to see the world and ourselves as it is and as we are, not as we want it to be. This, however, is difficult and scary and sometimes painful, hence, many do not progress far on the journey.  The problem with not doing taking this journey is that we then condone, albeit silently, the lies, distortions, suffering and violence.

So, I absolutely and totally enjoy the presence and company of momma bunny and her babies, but, if I had the power, she would not exist....not in her current manifestation...there would be no "domestic" beings, no need for Heartland Rabbit Rescue or other shelters.  Momma bunny and her children would be living their life in their own manner of choosing (in Denmark or somewhere) and would be highly unlikely to want anything to do with me or any other human.....or maybe not (see the post "It ought to be like that").

If we humans can ever grow up and quit acting like spoiled 2 year old children who believe everything revolves around us, if we can begin to interact with and respect other earthlings and our planet like we ourselves wish to be dealt with....then maybe momma rabbit or one of the children might not mind hanging out with me for a bit....until they had rabbit doings to take care of.


Murph's mom said...

Excellent post Veganelder. I believe that most of the people that abandon a pet rabbit (any pet) to the wild have convinced themselves that the rabbit will be fine, even grateful for its freedom. Convenient thinking as the human rids himself/herself of the responsibility of caring for someone that happens to be totally dependent on him/her for food, shelter and safety. In rescue work we hear many, many stories about pets that were callously abandoned in the wild. Sometimes we also see the results. Years ago we received a black and white mini lop rabbit who, according to witnesses, had been attacked by a bobcat. The bunny was as torn up as I had ever seen anybody be and still be alive. He was shocky and close to the brink. We rushed him to our vet who did emergency surgery to close up gaping wounds. The bobcat had partially castrated him and ripped one of his back legs open, exposing muscles and bone while dislocating his hip. Horrific wounds. The vet got him stable and managed to save his life. Surgery to repair the damage done came about over the next couple of days after he gained some strength. His recovery took a long time. Tough little guy.

Standing up for that little rabbit and the others like him over the years was done automatically. I didn't think about it I just did it. But I've been thinking about another stand a lot lately. My old habit of rushing into McDonald's to get an egg biscuit has slowly but surely become less of a habit. The image of the multiple chickens in a small cage comes to my mind and the other horrific images and I lose my appetite. Enough of that. My husband and I found a great little donut shop that serves nicely as a quick stop for those in a hurry.

By the way, I am convinced that momma bunny and her two children, along with their many friends would visit you often in that perfect world you spoke of. I think they would probably live nearby and partake of your organic garden whenever they liked and sit in the shade of your peach trees as they waited for the perfectly excellent peach tarts that Juli makes.

Bea Elliott said...

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing sometimes... About 4 years ago, before I understood that some animals are "ruined" forever by domestication, I found a bunny in my neighborhood. He was a big white fluffy ball of fur. Except for being frightened by too many cars he was almost even "tame".

I knew just enough that he would want to be free... I also knew enough not to surrender him to the local "high kill" "shelter". So under the mistaken "logic" that he would "adapt" just like any bunny would, I drove him to someplace "wild"...

The place had good cover, lots to forage from and several ponds. In my mind I really thought I was doing some good to the poor little fella. In hindsight I was such a fool. I just didn't know at the time that once domesticated and bred for such, an animal stands little chance of survival on his own.

Not only do I curse my (well-intended) stupidity, but I curse the systems that create such beings to be totally dependent on us. I know it's against the odds... But I really hope that little guy made it alright. :(

Murph's mom said...

Bea, we have seen many 'against the odds' survivals. Our warrens (what we call our buildings) are full of survivors. Somehow they found their way to us. It is possible that the bunny you found was found again. As far as regrets go, you are not alone. My list is long. I am grateful for the ones like you that stand up for the animals. It gives me hope. May your victories for them be many.

Bea Elliott said...

Thank you Murph's mom - Today just happened to be the day I needed to be reminded that not all is lost all the time... You've reminded me of "hope".

Thanks for being a voice for the animals too! :)

veganelder said...

Thanks to both Murph's Mom and Bea for visiting and for commenting.