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Killing the campus rabbits - debunking the disinformation of the University of Victoria

an analysis of the administration cover-up of the killing of abandoned domestic rabbits on campus

by Roslyn Cassells

Dead rabbit UVic May 2010
Dead rabbit UVic May 2010
dead baby rabbit found near poison box
dead baby rabbit found near poison box
rabbit in heather UVic, at risk of poison and traps
rabbit in heather UVic, at risk of poison and traps
rabbit trappers
rabbit trappers
rabbit remains at UVic sports field
rabbit remains at UVic sports field
rescued baby girl, safe
rescued baby girl, safe
rabbits at risk in wooded area at UVic
rabbits at risk in wooded area at UVic
snare in bushes at UVic near sports fields
snare in bushes at UVic near sports fields
rabbits at risk in grassy area at UVic
rabbits at risk in grassy area at UVic
most of these rabbits were killed this May by UVic
most of these rabbits were killed this May by UVic
young rabbit at risk
young rabbit at risk

“Debunking the disinformation, the University of Victoria and the campus rabbits”

A report by Roslyn Cassells, Canada’s first elected Green

“Trapping may, however, be a necessary precursor to a shooting program in order to improve the defensibility of shooting…”  from a report by LGL Ltd., Environmental Research Associates, July 24, 2008, commissioned by the University of Victoria, and excerpted from “Feral Rabbit Inventory, Selected Areas of the University of Victoria Campus”

The University of Victoria has been for years conducting a misinformation campaign in order to justify their killing of abandoned domestic rabbits on campus.  In order to get a clear view of the situation it is necessary to debunk the university’s purposeful misrepresentations, omissions of the facts and issues, a number of blatant fabrications, and examples of deliberate fear mongering. 

The tactics used by the university are neither unique nor inventive, but their practise exposes the institution to public criticism and loss of trust.  Furthermore they represent a violation of the mandate and principles by which the institution is governed, and reflect a fundamentally mendacious streak in the current administration.  In the university’s Strategic Plan “A Vision for the Future - Building on Strength” Objective 32 states “Implement environmental stewardship practices that serve to make U Vic a leader in sustainability”.  Objective 31 states “to implement our campus plan…informed by community input and our commitment to sustainability.”  The divergence between the ideas in the Strategic Plan and the actual culture of the current administration represents a serious deficiency of leadership and lack of respect for ethical principles. 

A few themes continually resurface in their handling of the issue:  lack of transparency on this matter of intense public interest, secretive and undemocratic decision making processes, deliberate sabotage of any rabbit-friendly initiatives from staff, students, local residents and concerned animal advocacy groups, refusal to consider non-lethal programs despite overwhelming community support and evidence of success, refusal to accept responsibility for their lack of action on this issue, refusal to communicate frankly with concerned citizens, animal groups, and the media, and continual public misinformation campaigns designed to predispose the public to accept the mass killings the university has planned.

While other colleges such as Long Beach College in California (see Wall Street Journal article -  <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303395904575158581521399358.html?mod=googlenews_wsj>  have taken non-lethal population control measures and used them as a teaching tool, the University of Victoria remains recalcitrant, obtuse, and regressive in their handling of this issue.  Other BC municipalities such as Kelowna and Vernon have non-lethal rabbit control programs which have been up and running for years, are effective in population reduction and acceptable to the local community.  The Responsible Animal Care Society has been running the popular and successful rabbit population control program in Kelowna, as well as successfully lobbying to create bylaws to protect rabbits, and educating the public about their needs.

The excerpt from the LGL Ltd. Environmental Research report speaks to the university’s desire to maintain the appearance of doing their due diligence on the rabbit issue, without any genuine interest in or intention of diverting from their planned course of killing the rabbits.  The university continually refers to its “attempts” or other’s “failed” attempts at resolving the problem using non-lethal means…and holds this up as their justification for now promoting a kill.  In fact the university has not done it’s due diligence and there are a number of obvious examples of this.

The university commissioned report from exterminator LGL Environmental Research Ltd. also suggests physical grounds remediation as a way to reduce rabbit habitat and therefore the rabbit population.  The university has not carried out the grounds remediations recommended in the report, which would have reduced the amount of rabbit-preferred habitat on campus without costing a single life.  Similar remediations are also suggested on the Ministry of Environment website.  

One wonders why the university went first to an exterminator instead of their own biology department for answers to their questions.  This situation provides an exciting teachable moment for students and faculty and should have been promoted as such.  A sterilization program could take place on campus, with the help of the many community veterinarians who have offered their assistance (Dr. Nick Shaw from Shaw Pet Hospital, Dr. Helen Bell from Pacific Cat Clinic, Dr. Ilija Lukic, Sidney Animal Hospital, and Drs. Malcolm and Harry Bond from Salt Spring Vet Clinic), and students, staff, and other volunteers could help with the capture, recovery, adoptions, and release of the rabbits involved.  Rabbit health and population dynamics could be studied, as well as other educational and public policy initiatives.  Educating the public about responsible rabbit care and improving laws to protect rabbits are two points studiously ignored by the current campus administration, despite wide public interest and acceptance.

The university is constantly complaining about the “damage” the rabbits are doing to the campus grounds, and complaining about having to “clean up” the dead rabbits killed on campus roads each day.  Campus staff had for years dispatched injured rabbits by brute force, pummelling them to deal with shovels and stones, instead of taking them to Wild Ark wildlife rehabilitation center or local veterinarians willing to treat them free of charge.  In a Sept. 12, 2008 press release the university said “Since late 2007, the university has been gathering information on rabbit damage and safety concerns…“ and “…we’ll be able to explore non-lethal control methods, such as vegetation modifications“.  As the report’s recommended grounds remediation and exclusion recommendations were not implemented, many feel that the university has no reason to voice these complaints, or suggest that non-lethal methods have failed.  For in reality, the entire efforts of the administration have been to sabotage any non-lethal methods.  In simple terms the rabbits are the scapegoat for the administration’s failure to address the plight of the animals at an earlier and more manageable point.  The university’s cruel and regressive plan to shoot these abandoned pet rabbits illustrates the complete lack of transparency, compassion and ethical leadership at the University of Victoria.

The university commissioned a Feral Rabbit Pilot Project by Common Ground, a wildlife damage reduction company.  This project was simply the scapegoat “trapping” referred to in the LGL Report, the necessary precursor to the shooting campaign and the tool to manufacture the public’s consent.  The study, approved and given the go-ahead by campus administration involved sterilization of campus rabbits and their rehoming or release.  The project was halted before it was completed, and declared a failure by campus administration, despite positive community response.  The project details were never released to the public but many project volunteers feel that any attempt which resulted in the sterilization of rabbits is a success.  Indeed, if the university put as much money into rabbit sterilization as it does into producing and publicizing misinformation on the topic, the campus rabbits would all have been sterilized by now, and a fulsome public education campaign could have been funded. 

The university administration erroneously claimed the Feral Rabbit Pilot Project could not find homes for the 50 rabbits they sterilized.  Project volunteers confirmed that homes or sanctuaries were found for all of the rabbits.  A press conference was held at that point to source more homes or sanctuaries for the next 100 rabbits the project planned on capturing and sterilizing.  The Ministry of Environment at that point informed the project participants that they would need to apply for permits for each rabbit caught, consent to premises and vehicle inspections, and permanently house the rabbits in Ministry specified pens for the remainder of their lives.  This would have not allowed the rescue groups to find homes for the rabbits, or move them to other locations.  Furthermore, the Ministry pens would have involved an expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars - which the groups simply could not provide at a moment’s notice.  Taking in the university rabbits would have caused the groups to be less able to take in other homeless rabbits as the university rabbits would have to become permanent wards.

University administration spokespersons said the Ministry of Environment was to blame because they were now requiring permits allowing the rabbits to be placed in homes or sanctuaries.  However the truth of the matter is the university knew prior to the project commencing that the necessary permits and exemptions (which would have allowed re-homing and sanctuary placements) were not in place.  In other words the university let Common Ground go ahead with the plan to trap/sterilize/re-home the rabbits knowing the Ministry would clap a lid on it as soon as they became aware of it.

Campus administration constantly referring to the “failure” of the Project to place all the sterilized rabbits in adoptive homes or sanctuaries while completely ignoring their obstructive role with the Ministry of Environment.  The Ministry requires permits to move wild animals, which they consider the rabbits to be, and requires the animals to be relocated within 1 kilometre of the capture site in certain areas of the province including the Victoria region.  Most of the generous offers of sanctuary come from outside this tiny area (Rabbit Advocacy of BC, EARS Animal Sanctuary, TRACS - The Responsible Animal Care Society, and the Salt Spring Island SPCA). Although initially the Ministry of Environment officials simply informed the project participants of the absence of any required permissions, they had begun negotiations over possible exemptions with the project participants at the time the university halted the project.

The university alleges feral rabbits are “aggressive” while any one with any common sense knows a wild rabbit will flee from humans.  Tame rabbits, conditioned by years of feeding by students, staff and visitors to the campus, will approach people offering food.  This is hardly surprising and will continue as long as people continue to feed the rabbits. Other attempts at fear-mongering by the university involve claims of tetanus infections from rabbit bites.  On September 12, 2008 the University of Victoria press release stated that “feeding rabbits also increases the risk of bites, and tetanus could result”.  This fear mongering was compounded by equally unsubstantiated claims of “disease spread by rabbit feces” and “catastrophic injuries to athletes”. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which monitors common zoonotic public health concerns does not even have a reporting category for these alleged risks, nor any reports of these hyperbolic claims. Area hospitals could not confirm the allegations of “catastrophic injuries to athletes” either.

In addition to the opening excerpt of this essay which stated “Trapping may, however, be a necessary precursor to a shooting program in order to improve the defensibility of shooting…” from the LGL Environmental Consultants report submitted to the Office of the Vice-President, Finance and Operations Gayle Gorrill, the report contains other disturbing suggestions. Most telling is the fact that the report, which was never formally or willing released to the public, was in fact leaked by a horrified staff member, one of many in deep disagreement with the tactics of the current administration. 

Returning to the report, LGL Environmental Consultants, who are exterminators, write “Night-time shooting using a high-velocity .177 calibre air rifle with scope design for low-light conditions is an efficient way to cull rabbits”.  There is no mention of Trap Neuter Release programs (TNR) anywhere in the report, although it does make illusion to the possibility of other alternatives which would require a literature review, which for some reason LGL felt was outside of their responsibility.  If the university was truly seeking a non-lethal rabbit population program, it begs the question: Why did the University of Victoria hire an exterminator to produce this report?  Why did the university not use the expertise within its own ranks to provide non-lethal population control measures?  And lastly, why did the university keep the report from LGL secret?

Earlier this month, the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals withdrew its support for the university’s plan to do a mass killing of the campus rabbits.  In a statement to the public, and reproduced on their webpage the BCSPCA threw its support behind non-lethal alternatives.  The very public withdrawal of support from the province’s largest animal welfare group speaks volumes.  Internationally, boycotts are being planned against the university.  Locally, provincially, and nationally, the community, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors are, in no uncertain terms, expressing their opposition to the planned killing of campus rabbits.

The University of Victoria needs to come to its senses and join with us in our efforts to live in harmony with nature, work with our communities, and show compassion for those members of our society who cannot speak or advocate for themselves. We urge the university to show ethical leadership on this important issue.  The animals have no choice, but the university does.  On behalf of the animals, we ask you to choose compassion.

Roslyn Cassells

On December 24, 1967, just months before his assassination, Martin Luther King said “non-cooperation with evil is essential…we must practise non-violence for all levels of conflict…we will meet your physical force with our soul force…and one day we will win our freedom, and yours.”

****************************************************************

A face book page has been created to promote non-lethal alternatives called Action for UVic Rabbits, one of many dedicated to saving the campus rabbits.

A petition with over 1500 signatures was delivered to University of Victoria on April 26, 2010.

Backgrounder on rabbit laws:

Municipal rabbit bylaws are gradually being adopted in many BC cities and towns.  These laws generally speaking deal with issues like public education about rabbits, bans on selling unaltered animals, and bans on selling animals in pet stores. 

Provincially, rabbit advocates had hoped that domestic rabbits would be afforded more protection by their removal from Schedule C when the provincial Wildlife Act was amended recently. This would have allowed them protection under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.  However, The Environmental (Species and Public Protection) Statutes Amendment Act, 2008, contained no changes pertaining to the European Rabbit - Orcytolagus cuniculus - commonly know as the domestic rabbit.  This leaves the domestic rabbit, like all other mammals released into the wild, in Class C of the Wildlife Act of BC.  This class of animals has little or no protection. 

The release of domestic animals into the wild is a violation of the provincial Wildlife Act, the Criminal Code of Canada and an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act of BC.  However, the PCA Act does not apply to wildlife, which is how the domestic rabbits are currently classified. (see links http://www.rabbitadvocacy.com/bcs_wildlife_act_amended.htm  and http://www.rabbitadvocacy.com/rabbits_and_the_wildlife_act.htm for a good overview of rabbits and the Wildlife Act courtesy of the Rabbit Advocacy Group.

For more information join the Action for UVic Rabbits facebook or join the elert list by sending a request to roslyncassells@yahoo.ca

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Commentaires

 those rabbits make a pretty

 those rabbits make a pretty mean stew! mmm.

rabbits are homeless pets, would you eat a dog or cat too?

well, the bullies always post anonymously don't they.  this non-argument begs the question - would its cowardly writer also eat abandoned pet dogs and cats...and hey, why not, a few street kids?

The UVic bunnies are a

The UVic bunnies are a fabulous food source for the south island region. Not just for humans, either. Other creatures kill and eat the rabbits. I do think they are overpopulated for that area, but hey - that area is messed up anyways. It used to be full of camas and garry oak! 

I'm not sure what I would or would not eat depending on the circumstances. However, some people do eat cats and dogs and some people eat horses and raccoons and all sort of things. Grubs and larvae, even. My ancestors ate a lot of rabbit meat and it's delicious and nutritious. You just need to make sure you get enough fat if you're eating a lot of rabbit - otherwise you may have difficulty with 'protein starvation'. Anyways, this is all rather besides the point...

I personally find it frustrating that the modern human way of dealing with situations like these is often to use some form of birth control (spay and neuter, generally). I wish we were more capable of interacting with our eco-systems the way we have for thousands of years. So, maybe instead of buying some imported tofu (or what have you) from some shop we should go hunt a few bunnies and help keep a population from reaching disease problems. 

 

The UVic bunnies are a

The UVic bunnies are a fabulous food source for the south island region. Not just for humans, either. Other creatures kill and eat the rabbits. I do think they are overpopulated for that area, but hey - that area is messed up anyways. It used to be full of camas and garry oak! 

I'm not sure what I would or would not eat depending on the circumstances. However, some people do eat cats and dogs and some people eat horses and raccoons and all sort of things. Grubs and larvae, even. My ancestors ate a lot of rabbit meat and it's delicious and nutritious. You just need to make sure you get enough fat if you're eating a lot of rabbit - otherwise you may have difficulty with 'protein starvation'. Anyways, this is all rather besides the point...

I personally find it frustrating that the modern human way of dealing with situations like these is often to use some form of birth control (spay and neuter, generally). I wish we were more capable of interacting with our eco-systems the way we have for thousands of years. So, maybe instead of buying some imported tofu (or what have you) from some shop we should go hunt a few bunnies and help keep a population from reaching disease problems. 

 

"The University of Victoria

"The University of Victoria needs to come to its senses and join with us in our efforts to live in harmony with nature..."

Exactly. Which is why i fully support hunting the U Vic rabbits for food. The surviving bunnies get more food and remain unsterilized, the hunters get to eat local rather than supporting factory farming (whether animal product or tofu, its all garbage.)

unity of oppression includes animals

well, I am vegan, anonymous personal attackers.  so I would not eat any animals or children.

I am confused as to why I am called a "coward", please check your dictionary dear reader.

I am kind of surprised that the readers on this site have not yet made the connection between the oppression of animals and that of people.  An excellent place to start is Carol Adam's "The Sexual Politics of Meat"

Funny, but I have had more educated and progressive comments directed at me in the Province....whooooooooeeeeeee

way to go VMC readers :-))

Roslyn Cassells

 

 

Rabbits = Vermin

As a Townie who clearly has watched too much Disney, you won't be aware of the plague of rabbits in England in the 50s.  On a typical 5-10 Acre field, rabbits would eat anything about 20 metres in from the hedgerows where they lived, and that was a very considerable loss of food production.  When myxomatosis struck, the population was 99% eradicated, to huge celebration among the farming community.

U.Vic is not in an ag. zone, but rabbits know no boundaries.  They'll hop, skip and do the Fibonnacci until they're all over Van.Isl.  Madam, you and your ilk who encourage them are a menace.

OK, you're a vegan, but it might just get through to you that rabbits are agricultural pests and THAT AFFECTS YOUR GROCERY BILL, whether or not you are buying it or growing it yourself.  To bring it into sharp focus, I suggest you 'live the life' as you advocate it .... try to grow your own ag. produce surrounded by a herd of rabbits and let's see what you have to say in a year's time ... if you haven't starved in the meantime while cooing at the little darlings.  Get real!

Overall Conditions of the Rabbits

I've lived in Victoria my whole life and I have always enjoyed the uVic campus. I have visited it often since the late 1990s for high school projects and continue to do so often in course of my training. I am not there day to day though so I tend to notice changes which are gradual.

I've always loved the rabbits on the campus, its hard not to. They are cute as hell and a lot of them are quite friendly. However, I have noticed the general health of the rabbits and the surrounding areas have dropped dramatically. Quite a few of the rabbits are thin and have unkept fur (classic sign of health issues) and the grass is very close clipped to the ground (the rabbits are eating anything and everything as there is little to be had). There are so many of the little guys that a nesting pair of bald eagles has set up shop near the artificial turf.

While I understand you are a vegan Ms/Mrs Cassells I wouldn't use that as a point of moral superiority. Tufu, as someone brought up before, which is typical of a vegan diet, is starting to consume massive amounts of the Amazon forest (in order to produce the soybean) and in the process displacing the animal populations. Nor does it conform to the 100km radius that our food should come from, further adding to the carbon issue. So unless you have a zero foot print on the world I wouldn't recommend using that as a defense. Any resource we use unfortunately has a impact on the animal world, almost always for the negative (this is not to say one should not try to minimize that impact).

I think the fundamental issue is the overall health of the animals. Just by appearance alone more than a few of these animals look in distress. While I wouldn't agree with uVics numbers (I think to leave 200 rabbits remaining) as I don't know how they got that number, I don't think that removing the rabbits to a different location will solve the problem. Nor do I agree posting pictures of dead rabbits as proof of wrong doing, rabbits will die, especially in the conditions that they are already in. Rabbits will do as rabbits do, they will breed and we will be back here in another 10+ years.

Either way, my rant is this: I've seen no evidence on either side of the argument that is well thought out with actual facts (though I suspect I could find some for uVics side). Let me make this very clear, stating something based on ones personal beliefs without due consideration for the facts of the situation (and stating those facts, even those which are against you belief) makes your argument hollow. It also devalues your opinion to others and can often further harms your primary goal; to educate others to the issue at hand and why it matters.

 

James

 

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