We Are NOT Gifts!
By Ashley Roth
Easter is soaked in springtime symbolism. It’s a holiday inundated with remnants of the Pagan holiday Ostara. Kids run through backyards and parks, searching for plastic eggs (because chicken eggs aren’t for humans, remember?). They gobble up jelly beans and chocolate hollow bunnies. They wear pastels. Little hands dig through baskets, and reach in for their new favorite toy: a plush bunny, duck, or fuzzy chick. The most crucial aspect of this scene is that their new furry friend is a toy–as in made from cloth and stuffing and no vital organs inside. Because live animals are not commodities–and should never be a gift from the Easter Bunny.
Sadly, some "Easter Bunnies" are uneducated and do this very thing. It’s unfortunate that many find the need to buy chocolate laden with cow’s milk, or that they support the egg industry for some glorified art project. News flash: there are vegan options, even for dyeing eggs. Parents can craft their own egg substitutes, or buy EggNots. As for the live animals–this shouldn’t have to be explained. But it does.
Every year too many kids wake up and find a living, breathing creature nestled in plastic grass. On that day, this creature is cute. The little chirps are a welcome background to an egg hunt. Baby bunnies make for adorable social media posts. Everyone can collectively “ooh” and “ah”. Then there’s the day after Easter. And the day after that. Baby animals grow up. They have daily care requirements. They may have special diets, or feeding demands. Often these gifted animals need particular enclosures for their safety, and maybe have specific temperature needs. Rarely, do excited parents plan for the future reality–all because they began thinking of this animal as a purchased object, rather than a someone.
Parents, do you get a dog on a whim? Or a cat? Usually, you discuss it as a family and plan on walks and litter duty. These same rules should apply here. Small animals often have more intricate care needs than the domesticated animals most are used to–and they aren’t babies forever. When you don’t think or talk about real life, or educate yourself on these Easter- themed animals–their lives are in peril. Let me tell you what happens. They are discarded, like any other worn plaything. Shelters are the best outcome for these tossed animals. 80 percent of all rabbits at shelters were once cuddly Easter gifts, and now they’re on death row hoping that a true bunny lover happens to rescue them. And the chickens and ducks–well, how many people are searching shelters for them? What if parents return these animals to the feed store, or the pet store? Chickens and ducks will be thrust into the farming assembly line, either to produce more commodities or to be turned into food. Rabbits will be shoved back into a tiny glass enclosure. There, they wait for chance. These aren’t made of plastic or cloth; they are living, breathing animals who feel and should never be treated like trash.
Rabbits are fragile and may be harmed by children who don’t mean to be rough. They enjoy chewing and need to be protected from wires, and your chewable valuables need to be protected from them. Their dietary needs are specific–including grass hay and two cups of vegetables. Rabbits have incredibly sensitive digestive systems. Any sudden food changes, and a toxic–and potentially fatal–bacteria may flourish in a rabbit’s intestines. That isn’t the only ailment rabbits are prone to. They can be infested with mites; their teeth may become overgrown; and they are very susceptible to heatstroke. Rabbits can be excellent companions, but their care is complicated–much more complicated than any toy given in a woven basket.
Then, there are chickens. Once the softest of chicks, they quickly grow into hens or roosters with their own list of demands. As tiny chicks, they are delicate and can die from being handled incorrectly. Chickens have dietary needs specific to their age and gender–their human caregivers need to know the differences in calcium and protein. They also need to know that avocados can make chickens very sick. For housing, chickens need a clean and safe coop with room for exercise and dust to bathe in. Chickens need to be thoroughly examined every day. They are vulnerable to a slew of viruses and parasites. Oh, yeah–chickens sometimes become infected with salmonella. A disease that can make them and your human children come down with a messy, uncomfortable illness. Think about that before you place a little chick next to the chocolate bunny. You know they make really cute motorized toys that look just like chicks–salmonella free!
Oh, and ducks. Sure, the kids loved their duckling and swore to love him forever–but, then it’s May and they’re bored with him. And parents? They’re sick of cleaning up after him and making sure his basic needs are met. Thankfully, he’s wild! And can go back to a serene pond with all his duck friends. Wrong. While 98 percent of gifted ducks are dumped by a pond or creek, or at a park–it doesn’t make it right. This duck you gave to your kid is domesticated, and thrusting him into the wild is going to kill him. He won’t know how to fend off predators and other ducks may reject him. He won’t know innate behaviors of wild ducks, because he isn’t wild. So, before you kill this “Easter gift,” educate yourself and your kids on duck care. See if everyone is willing to actively engage, clean, and be diligent about a duck-friendly diet (no bread!). If not, ducks aren’t for you. And they’re NEVER for an Easter basket.
Maybe someone reading this is up to the challenge of rescuing these animals and is more than devoted to their care. That’s great–it still doesn’t justify them as Easter gifts. By purchasing these animals, you are telling your children and yourself they are just a commodity. If a child truly expresses interest in rescuing an animal, have long conversations about care and responsibility–let them talk to others who have these animals as companions. And, then, actually rescue them. Don’t support pet stores or feed stores that are celebrating the exploitation of animals–who don’t care if you dump them when you’re through with them. Because they already made their profit.
Nashville, here’s where you come in. Obviously, after reading this you have no intention of gifting live animals to your children. You should share your awareness. Did you know we have local feed stores selling baby chicks? TSC and Davidson Co-Op sell them for a mere three dollars. Parents won’t bat an eye paying that–and probably won’t think much of dumping them after either. Please go to these stores and educate sellers, educate potential buyers. Tell your friends. Share on Facebook. Tell them about Nashville’s Bunny Rescue and Clover Patch if they are really serious about becoming rabbit-parents. Bunnies can be rescued all year long–just not on Easter. That day should be reserved for veganizing Cadbury Eggs and reading Peter Rabbit.