Peter Rabbit: Good or Bad For Rabbit Welfare?

Peter Rabbit Official Promotional Poster The new Peter Rabbit movie is released in UK cinemas on Friday 16th March 2018, but already the hype is building.  With it’s own controversies already getting the film some negative coverage around the portrayal of bullying rabbits with fruit allergies, the questionable selection of voice actors and the attempts to replace Mr McGregor with a fitter, younger model it is still set to be one of this year’s big blockbuster hits – especially with kids.

So as a rabbit rescue, what do we make of all this fresh attention on rabbits?

It remains to be seen when the film hits the UK’s shores how accurately the behaviours and welfare needs of rabbits will be depicted in the film.  From the trailers we can already see a heavy reference to carrots, further confusing the myths about rabbit’s natural diet.

The big risk though is that there will be a further increase in the number of families looking to bring home a rabbit as a family pet for the kids, and often without the upfront research that should be part of such a large decision.  And so we anticipate that we will notice an increase in rabbit surrenders to the rescue within a few months of the film’s release.  Perhaps we should add a new surrender reason code to our shelter systems before September comes along when the young rabbits hormones are developing and the cute little baby rabbit develops into a lonely, hormonal adult rabbit.  Watch out for the “Peter Rabbit Movie Effect” reason code displaying on our website in just a few months 😉

The media image of a cute, cuddly, friendly, cheap and easy pet rabbit is rarely achievable.  The PDSA PAW report year-on-year demonstrates that as many as 65% of pet rabbits in the UK are still not getting their basic needs met.  The common areas people are falling short are in relation to the need for rabbits to be kept in pairs or small groups, the need for suitable living and exercise space as well as feeding an appropriate diet.

It is no secret that the ease by which families can buy a rabbit compounds the overall welfare issue.  Whilst you can walk in to a pet shop, visit a local breeder or even select a free rabbit from classifieds online without any checks being done on your understanding of their needs or what space, housing, finances and time you have for them it is always going to be the rabbits that lose out to the whimsical and disposable nature so many of the UK still view rabbit ownership.

We stand in readiness for the bunny excitement that comes every Easter, and scurrying around in the background are preparing for a bigger impact thanks to Peter, Benjamin, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail and their woodland friends.  It should be an exciting time for us, looking forward to watching a relaxing movie about our favourite animal.  The reality is the prospect of the film leaves me fearing for the worst.