Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Rabbit Held Hostage on Website

I you haven't seen this yet, and you're trying to lower your level of optimism about human nature, you could visit www.savetoby.com. The caretaker of what appears to be an abandoned or escaped domesticated rabbit is threatening to EAT his captive (or pet, if you will) if he does not receive $50,000 in donations by a certain date. That's pretty unbelievable, but here is the best part: he claims to have received over $14,000 in donations already, if I read it correctly (the site accepts major credit cards). Thanks to Ashley, a student in my Law & Economics class, for forwarding me the link. The "give-me-money-or-I-eat-the-hostage" thing seems wrong somehow, but not necessarily illegal.

I described the pet as either abandoned or escaped because it's coloration seems much lighter than the many wild rabbits I have seen. It looks like a pet store rabbit to me. But I do not claim to be an expert. Click on READ MORE for additional discussion...

I am sure that animal rights advocates will find this deeply disturbing (as I said, it is not one of the shining moments for our species), but I am not sure this violates the typical animal cruelty laws - especially since rabbit dishes can be ordered at many fine restaurants in every metropolitan area. It mostly seems like cruelty to rabbit lovers - actually, outright exploitation. I was in junior high when Saturday Night Live aired Eddie Murphy's gag about "Larry the Lobster" (I'm not sure if my 1L students were even born yet), where the show ran a mock telethon to save a lobster from being cooked on national television (supposedly this was an unplanned stunt that Murphy pulled "live" without warning, interrupting a plan to cook the creature). But there was no ransom being demanded back then. The ransom thing is troubling. I don't care if Toby's owner eats him (I've eaten rabbit before with no regrets, although I prefer eating animals that are larger than me, for personal reasons - plus the owner risks getting certain parasites), but anyone donating money with the sincere desire to save Toby is surely encouraging follow up stunts; this would be the easiest $14,000 ever made. Could a wave of animal-kidnapping legislation be far behind?

I had a friend once whose family went through hard financial times when he was a kid and his Dad killed and cooked their pet bunny and made them eat it. Pretty traumatic for a little kid - and his Dad got angry that some of the kids refused to eat it at all and were wasting a good dinner, the only meat they could afford. I also went through a phase several years ago where I kept a little vegetable garden, and being an obsessive reader, I read every book my local library had about organic gardening. One of the most memorable ones was a book explaining how to be completely self-sufficient, food wise, with less than one acre for a back yard. (that is, how to grow ALL of your family's food on a small suburban lot so you never have to buy anything - it was an elaborate plan for crop maximization, space maximization, seasonal plantings, etc.) Anyway, the last chapter discussed the problem of MEAT, which takes a lot of land - unless you are willing to eat rabbits. The book advocated having at two females and one male, which it said would produce enough offspring to provide a family of four with some meat all throughout the year so they never had to buy any of that, either. I wanted to try it, but I could never get my wife to agree to the idea, unfortunately. :-) She thought it might traumatize the children. This was before we met the guy whose Dad made him eat his pet rabbit.

I've ordered rabbit two or three times in restaurants. I enjoyed it the first time or two, but the last time was particularly unpleasant (the sauce was just too rich or something, I just felt sick afterward) and I never wanted to eat it again. It was also during a luncheon with some unpleasant lawyers from an unpleasant law firm in Connecticut, so it is not a memory I "savor" on that note, either. My wife won't eat it because they are rodents and she believes rodents are full of parasites.