Ever since I’ve had bunnies, I have been mildly curious about the hobby of showing rabbits. That is, the breeding of a quality rabbit of a certain breed to be entered into a competition. It is something I would probably never ever do though, simply because I could not look after so many rabbits in one go and I would always feel the need to give each rabbit the quality time he or she deserves and on my own, I would feel that I would be unable to do that.
Despite knowing that I would never become a breeder, it did not stop me looking up information. I also looked at rabbit clubs for my Different Rabbit Breeds articles. It was during this time when I came across something that disturbed me greatly.
Culling – The act of removing breeding animals from a group based on certain criteria.
Why cull? Sometimes breeders would remove an animal that had no desirable qualities to pass on. Many breeders recommend it, saying that any animal that does not show the qualities that are needed in a show animal should be culled.
During my time researching, I found that there were mainly two types of breeders. Those who rehomed their rabbits that were not show quality and those who showed an utter lack of responsibility and compassion.
I always believe that buying your rabbits from a reputable breeder is better than a pet shop as you will know the family history of the rabbit, you can ask the questions and get good support and the breeder genuinely cares about the welfare of each rabbit sold or given away. Many breeders would sell any unwanted rabbits as it helps them fund their hobby and they are able to give away quality pets who have been properly socialised.
Then I read someone’s post (which I will not link to here) which stated that other breeders would euthanise or ‘dispose’ of the majority of rabbits that do not fit the criteria. She mentions that this is normal in the USA and even listed several methods of cullings. What shocked me is how she liked to play God with her rabbits. Perhaps I do not truly understand breeder mentality. But I believe breeding should come with a high amount of responsibility which I did not believe she showed well.
She stated that ill rabbits, especially young ones were not worth the time or money to heal and that euthanising was the kinder thing to do. Perhaps in the wild, ill rabbits do not survive but if you are going to breed them, it makes sense that you should be responsible for them, ill and healthy? She would never use an ill rabbit in her breeding program incase unhealthy genes are passed along. But I think euthanising instead of healing is the lazy way out. No one is saying you have to breed them. But if the issue is healable, why not neuter/spay and find a good home?
Rabbits with malocclusion that need teeth clipping are not on her ‘live’ list. With the way breeding has become nowadays, problems with teeth are not rare among rabbits, especially among certain breeds of rabbit. So if a rabbit needs their teeth clipped regularly, she believes they would be happier dead than to have to go through the stress of having the teeth clipped. What kind of decision is that? I have a bad ankle that gives me a big amount of stress regularly, now if I didn’t have the ability to talk, would she slap a big sign on my forehead saying ‘for the greater good, please euthanise!’?
The second thing she mentions is that some of her rabbits that are not perfect end up going to snake and raptor rescue centres! What?! Coldly, she says she gets paid for giving her rabbits to these centres and that she does not want to know what they do with the rabbits. That sounds so irresponsible. I know these other animals need to eat too but could you choose based on appearance, which ones should be fed to a predator and which ones get to live a life?
So in light of all that, I know most breeders do the right thing for their animals. But some of them like to choose the easy way out, with excuses like bad teeth is stressful, snakes have got to eat too and healing a rabbit is expensive. But, breeder, don’t forget who put the buck with the doe in the first place. If the combination doesn’t look like the next big netherland dwarf, it doesn’t mean that rabbit, who could go to a loving new home, should be put down or thrown into the pit. Trying to achieve the perfect is not a bad thing but if you’re putting aside compassion, love and responsibility to the animals in your care, then you are losing sight of the goal and of your own heart. This kind of prejudice is not too different to that shown in world war 2 to those who did not display blonde hair and blue eyes characteristics or to those who had mental and physical disabilities. To the breeders out there who choose to use culling methods that lead to an animal’s premature death, I hope you will one day come to love all your kits equally even though they might not all have the show quality you are searching for. Euthanasia should be a last resort and if money is a problem, then maybe you ought to not partake in breeding.