THE BLOG

In a Stew Over Easter Bunnies

08/04/2015 22:22 BST | Updated 08/06/2015 10:59 BST

Just as we try to discourage people from buying puppies as Christmas gifts, animal welfare campaigners busily spread the word that the only kind of rabbit to give at Easter should be a toy bunny, or one that's made of chocolate.

We all know what happens to impulsive 'whim' purchases of real animals once the novelty has worn off. They end up being abandoned or are handed in to rescues. And just like dogs, there's no shortage of rabbits and their offspring desperate to be adopted right now.

So, last weekend, did this stop one pet shop from posting their newly arrived 'cute' bunnies on Facebook as 'just what the kids would love for Easter'? Unfortunately, it did not.

It was just so sad to see a pet shop blatantly flying in the face of ethical behaviour - and just plain common sense - to make a fast buck (no pun intended).

And we're not alone in feeling so very disappointed. The Pet Shop Kilmarnock's post on Facebook quickly came under fire by outraged members of the public, disgusted rabbit welfare groups and a respected pet magazine editor - all calling for the removal of the opportunistic post and an end to the cynical commoditisation of our beloved buns.

'A rabbit is for life, not just for Easter' rang out across social media. But did this tidal wave of public disapproval cause the pet shop in question to rethink their strategy? Unfortunately, it did not.

In fact, the owner felt compelled to issue a statement in response to the mounting criticisms leveled at his shop (printed below). Shockingly, he was unrepentant and managed to sidestep answering any of the real issues raised. It reminded us of the non-specific, well-rehearsed bla bla bla communications we have so often received from Defra that say a lot but mean so little.

And, to add insult to injury, this wasn't just any old pet shop either. This was a Pet Industry Federation (PIF) affiliated pet shop!

What an embarrassment it must be to the Pet Industry Federation to see one of their own members not only acting so irresponsibly but also making sure they take PIF with them on this downward spiral of disillusionment by the public.

The pet shop owner states proudly his shop has been "affiliated to the P.I.F since 1970 and following their practice and charters". It would be very interesting to know what Nigel Baker, PIF CEO, feels about this sort of approach to marketing animals as gifts for children.

Although animal welfare issues for shops like the one in Kilmarnock are devolved to Scotland, it's worth noting that the outcome of the General Election could very well see the SNP taking a significant role in Whitehall. Let's just hope Nicola Sturgeon is an animal lover.

What has now become abundantly clear, however, is that there is a considerable shift in public opinion about the way pet shops that sell animals operate. In particular, they are now questioning whether (a) the 'livestock' comes from an ethical source (b) whether the animals in the pet shop are given appropriate levels of care and (c) whether a pet shop promotes responsible pet ownership.

In terms of this particular PIF member pet shop we don't yet know the answers to (a) and (b), but like so many others, we are definitely not happy bunnies about (c).

Marc Abraham founder PupAid.

Linda Goodman founder CARIAD.

The offending post on Facebook

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The full response from The Pet Shop Kilmarnock

In Response.

"As Proprietor of the shop I would like to reply to ALL our followers and people who read our page.

The British public have been keeping pets for well over a hundred years or so and have been buying them in all sorts of different ways, Pet shops, breeders, internet, the public, breeding farms etc etc. Our trade in turn has come on leaps and bounds in all sorts of ways with the help of our affiliated body, the Pet Industry Federation since the late 60s. As the same with any trade, you would go to and do business with the company that has the relevant certificates, recommendations and length of service within that trade.

My family run Pet shop was started in 1945 by my grandfathers brother in Ayr, having a few successful years, my grandfather then opened a Pet shop in Kilmarnock in 1952, Paisley and Stirling in the late 60/s/70s and I am the 3rd generation of shopkeeper and pet lover. Having been affiliated to the P.I.F since 1970 and following their practice and charters we have successfully serviced the people of Ayrshire and beyond to this day. All our staff are knowledgeable in the care and well being of all common pets on sale in our shop and the repeat business is our testimony. We do not sell animals to under 18s ( CHILDREN) and as some one put, we are not in it for a quick buck. We sell and care for our animals 365 days a year , we have a great relationship with the Local Authorities and the Local S.S.P.C.A.

Unfortunately what is outwith our control is when an animal leaves our care and what happens in the years ahead. As we all know as a father myself and as our G.Pig ( Fluffy) would agree, its usually down to the parents for the feeding, grooming, playtime etc etc but that's life as a parent, doing things for your kids. Peoples circumstances change and all of a sudden the poor animal suffers. I watch all the programs in disbelieve and cannot believe what people could do. The upside is the folk coming in day after day to tell me what pleasure and joy it has brought to their life's, enhancing it ten-fold. The generations that we have seen grow up and are now bringing in their kids to be the next generation of animal lovers.

As with any business you would showcase what ever you have and we are no different, peoples opinions and shopping habits change as we have seen the change in our High Street but I firmly believe there is a place for the Independents along with the Big Boys. I will continue along will my staff to serve our community and the future pet lovers.