We see them in pet stores in the weeks before Easter – cute little live Easter bunnies. What many of us don’t see is the sudden influx of bunnies being abandoned at shelters once Easter is over. But the House Rabbit Society, a nationwide rabbit rescue group with local chapters across the country, knows the problem all too well.
The local HRS chapter in Columbus, OH started the “Make Mine Chocolate!” campaign in 2002, encouraging people to buy chocolate bunnies, instead of live bunnies. The campaign has caught on and gone national. I interviewed Susan Mangold, Co-Founder of the national “Make Mine Chocolate!” campaign and website administrator for the campaign.
Every year, people buy adorable little bunnies for their kids for Easter, and then those same bunnies get dumped at the shelter a few weeks or months later. For what reasons do people abandon their Easter bunnies?
One reason is that people are often disappointed that the rabbit doesn't "do anything." The rabbit just sits in its cage and makes a mess. I guess it doesn't occur to them to take the time to interact with the rabbit and actually get to know what the rabbit is actually like. A second complaint is that caring for a rabbit is a lot more work than they expected. They may have been told that rabbits are no more work than mice or gerbils and quickly discover how untrue that claim is.
What would you say to someone who wants to adopt/rescue a rabbit for Easter, as a gift to their child?
First, do they understand that rabbits can live as long as large dogs. It is not unusual for a rabbit to live eight to ten years. Right now, I'm living with two 12-year-old rabbits, both of whom have some health issues but otherwise are doing very well. The rabbit which was purchased for a 10-year-old may very well be alive and well when that child heads off to college.
Second, are they, the parents, prepared to be ultimately responsible for the well-being of that rabbit? It is unreasonable to expect a child to have the maturity to be solely responsible for the care of a creature which is totally dependent on people for its survival. We often hear that parents buy a rabbit for a child in order to teach the child responsibility. When the family subsequently tires of the rabbit and gets rid of it, I wonder what lesson the child ultimately learns. The vast majority of parents want to do the right thing for their children. Our goal is to help them get the information they need to make a thoughtful decision about whether a rabbit is a good choice for their family.
I think “Make Mine Chocolate” is such a clever campaign. Instead of telling people not to do something, you give them a fun and positive alternative. How did the idea for “Make Mine Chocolate” come about?
The idea came from a Columbus House Rabbit Society volunteer. She makes pottery for a living and offered to create "Make Mine Chocolate!" pins for a fundraiser. We got such a positive response from our members that we decided to try our hand at turning it into a national campaign.
What kind of feedback are you getting on this campaign?
The response has been overwhelming, to say the least. Dozens of organizations in the United States and around the world have chosen to partner with us by linking to our website. Many of these organizations have their own “Make Mine Chocolate!” events and activities, helping to spread the word in their own communities.
I am also gratified that our campaign has been described on countless blogs, including many [that] are not specifically animal-oriented. To me this suggests that our campaign has moved beyond appealing solely to animal welfare groups.
This year has been particularly exciting in that there is now a United Kingdom “Make Mine Chocolate!” campaign. They have been incredibly successful in quickly getting the support of a number of British rescue and humane societies, as well as putting their own unique twist on spreading our message. I continue to be amazed that a campaign which was started by three people in Columbus, Ohio has become a familiar part of the Easter season.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about “Make Mine Chocolate!”Ed. Note: Please choose a vegan, slave-free chocolate bunny. Milk is the product of suffering, cruelty and exploitation, but chocolate does not have to contain milk. Also, child labor and forced labor in chocolate production are serious human rights issues. The Food Empowerment Project keeps lists of chocolate companies that do and don't use slave labor. And lastly, If you are willing and able to provide a loving home to a rabbit for the next ten years, please contact your local shelter or your local chapter of the House Rabbit Society to adopt a rabbit. You can also search Petfinder.com for rabbits available for adoption in your area.