Living in a cage
Rabbits in cages
I'd like to say a word about rabbits in cages. Now if you've read any of my other stuff - Repentance off a battery hen or So, you want to take your rabbit on holiday, do you?, you may notice a distinct theme - animals in cages are either miserable or trying to get out. Well then, if you keep your pet in a cage you're probably thinking that this is your cue to beat a hasty retreat...
But wait. I could surprise you yet.
Apricot, my rabbit has our flat at her disposal - the armchair is her bed, various rugs are where she takes her various naps, the kitchen is her kingdom and the fridge is the boundary line that she's one day hoping to cross. She reigns over our flat, tolerating our presence admirably although knowing deep down that we have only been put there to provide her with endless salad.
The fact is not everyone can offer their rabbit a whole kingdom. Some people can offer them a garden at most, others must keep them in a hutch.
Keeping a rabbit outside is perfectly all right - it's their natural environment and as long as they're not going from hot to cold (i.e from indoors to out) then the rabbit will adapt to the set temperature whether cold - they have an extremely thick coat, after all - or hot. Even a rabbit who has been used to living indoors can be moved outside as I found out myself. Piaf, my boyfriend's rabbit, joined our household a year ago...
and I firmly believe, rued the very day she did.
The Tale of Piaf
This is the story of a little rabbit who went from living in a cage the size of a pizza box to having our whole spare room to herself. Not only had she grown up in a cage but that cage had been outside in the thick of the North Italian countryside where damp fog lingers over the fields, as early as September.
The spare room in the flat was warm, there was even a camp bed for her to sleep on but for some reason Piaf wasn't happy. Many a day she lay on that bed dreaming of a better life.
But why was she so unhappy? Didn't she have everything a rabbit could ever wish for?
The truth was, that although Piaf had been given a whole room whereas before she had only a cage, she was no longer free.
There was shadow hanging over her.
A shadow that watched her night and day. This shadow was the reason why she had been closed up in the spare room. One paw outside that room and her life was in danger - the Queen had got scent of her presence and was not impressed.
Noone was allowed in her kingdom.
Piaf looked out from her camp bed hoping that one day, someone would rescue her.
Was this the freedom that everyone so yearned for?
If this was how it was then she preferred living in a cage - the tension was too much to stand. She couldn't live like this, unwelcome on another's territory, every moment fear hanging over her.
She had to escape, anything was better than living like this.
And escape she did. But she hadn't reckoned on the Queen.
She didn't venture far before she was back again. One ripped ear later and feeling very sorry for herself she was back in her own little spare room.
But what to do now? She was more trapped than ever.
It just so happened that the Queen had a kindly servant (a human no less). This servant had already gone against the Queen in the past, claiming to be the owner of her kingdom and closing the door on her when she wanted to go into the bedroom to chew the antique oak chest.
This servant had no fear of the Queen and decided to help Piaf. He put her in the pet carrier and took her to his parents house where it was agreed she would live in a big garden with plenty of grass to eat.
But most important of all, Piaf would no longer live feeling oppressed or threatened.
She was finally free.
So Piaf now reigns a kingdom all of her own; at my in-laws (she tolerates them on her territory). All happily ever after, I might add.
The moral of this story?
Real freedom is a state of mind - for animals just as it is for humans.
If we feel oppressed or under threat we won't feel free - no matter how much land we have. And that brings me back to cages. By logical conclusion, if animals can be prisoners outside a cage, then is it possible they can be free inside a cage? Well, in a certain sense, yes.
Of course, neither of my rabbits are in cages and although when I was little we had rabbits in cages it's not something I would do again. Once you've seen a rabbit hopping around your house wiggling it's fluffy tail you may not want to go back to putting it in a cage either (although once you find yourself being patrolled in your own kitchen and assailed every time you open the fridge you might start considering it again). The fact is, although I wouldn't choose it myself I can't blindly say that all animals in cages are unhappy.
Perhaps I would have said it once but it was a certain Signor Sandro who changed my mind on that account.
Signor Sandro is a man of seventy who has lived in the countryside all his life; he's the breeder who raised my two rabbits for the first few months of their lives. He has two hundred rabbits and for over thirty five years has been breeding them. Rabbits have been his passion since long before I discovered them, long before I was even born.
The fact is every one of his rabbits is in a cage and every one of them radiates health and tranquillity.
I know, it's strange.
The first time I saw them I couldn't quite get my head round it. And then I discovered, what I believe to be, Signor Sandro's secret.
"You have to treat animals with respect," he said one day. "Not spoil them - just treat them with respect."
He was holding one of his show rabbits at the time and it pumped up its chest and held up its head as if it were in full agreement. It occured to me then what the difference was.
The difference between those rabbits and the battery hens.
These rabbits were respected, really respected and it showed in their whole being. They were there because someone wanted them to be there - and not for their meat or their fur or whatever, simply because they were admired just for being rabbits.
Perhaps that is the true misery of the factory animal - the fact that they're not respected.
Noone really wants them but they want something from them. Those animals really do live without a scrap of respect. In a sense, that's more oppressive than living in a cage.
If anyone is interested in learning more about factory farming I recommend you look at 'the meatrix' which opens the eyes to factory farming and isn't something that is aimed to convert meat eaters to vegetarianism.
But I was talking about rabbits - and let me finish off by reiterating Signor Sandro's words-wherever you chose to put your rabbit, whether it be free to roam your house, your garden or your spare room or just in a plain old hutch, there's one thing that will always be important......
but you know what it is already and I'm sure there isn't any danger of you depriving your much loved pet of this.
If only it were the same for the factory animals though.