Friday, June 10, 2011

Thoughts on Lab Rabbit Rescue

Over a week ago I received a two sentence email about six “lab rabbits” that were scheduled to be euthanized later that day. It was vague, but it got my attention. The person who emailed me said his wife worked at a major research facility and the bunnies were not used as test subjects. He wanted to know if I knew of anyone who could take them. I wrote back for a location and sent him contact info for a half dozen rabbit rescue organizations in the Northern California Bay Area. The next day I learned the rabbits were safe with the good folks of Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary who posted their adoption photos. (Many thanks to Harvest Home!) I was overjoyed to see them - six big beautiful New Zealand white rabbits who will make wonderful house rabbits. By the way, you can meet Harvest Home’s adoptable rabbits on the first Saturday of the month at the East Bay SPCA - Tri-Valley, in Dublin, CA. Photo Credit: Matthew, former lab rabbit now available for adoption.

In 2007, (most recent year of available data) 236,511 rabbits were used in research in the United States. They are 23% of the total number of animals reported to the USDA making rabbits the largest category of reported species. With these staggering numbers, breeding rabbit “test models” is a multi-million dollar business as are the studies that use them receiving grants and corporate funding. It is easy to surf the internet and find specialized companies selling rabbit test models at prices over $100 each (multiple that by 236,511 rabbits for 2007).

Could this industry be worried about their public image? Recently, they pulled out the “cute kid card” by posting billboards pitting a rat’s life against that of a cute little girl. It is apparent they have the funds to spend on a national billboard campaign to try to sway public opinion. The better question I have seen asked on Care2.com is: “Does the rat [or rabbit] have to die so a little girl can live?” Most times not according to Dr. John Pippin, an advisor to PCRM who said, "90 percent of drugs that worked on animals failed in human trials."

While I am thrilled six rabbits escaped possible pain and death, thousands never find a safe haven. These six “lab” rabbits will make wonderful companion animals - maybe even in a home with a cute young girl who loves bunnies.

More Info: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, The National Anti-Vivisection Society