Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

ADI slams Abbey TV ad for using live rabbits

Posted: 19 February 2007

Abbey’s latest ‘Switching Account’ TV ad features eight live rabbits rather than CGI (computer-generated images), as these were deemed ‘too expensive’ by the company’s ad agency WCRS. The TV ad features a rabbit running through a forest to a seemingly impassable stream, with a lush green meadow full of rabbits on the far side. The narrative about Abbey making it easier to switch accounts is symbolised by four red blocks floating downstream which the rabbit uses to hop across to the meadow to join his fellow creatures.

Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI, slammed the ad: “This is the second Abbey TV ad we have decried for using live performing animals instead of CGI images, as they endure the hardest of training regimes. Domesticated rabbits still retain much of their wild behaviour which makes them unsuitable for a life in captivity . The effects of stress upon rabbits is significant especially from unfamiliar surroundings and transport 2. For the Abbey ad, the rabbits had to be trained for weeks to jump across water onto blocks, which is potentially extremely hazardous as a wet rabbit can quickly become hypothermic3. The training involved is likely to have been a frightening experience for them because they would naturally avoid water.”

The rabbits were trained for about two weeks for an hour a day. To start with they were trained to jump across blocks and then the water was introduced.

A vet and animal trainer were present during the shoot, which took three days, with the rabbits mostly only filming in the morning. The production team from Paul Weiland Film Company deliberately searched for a filming site in the Cotswolds so it was close to supplier and trainers, Amazing Animals. Even so, the rabbits travelled about 10 miles in a van everyday to the shoot.

A rabbit’s average life span is up to 9 years and they are widespread in Western Europe. They are also found in North Africa and have been introduced to Australia, New Zealand and North and South America 4. Their habitat is mainly heathland, open meadow, grassland, woodland, fringes of agricultural land and dry sandy soil, including sand dunes. However, they avoid coniferous forests. 4. A rabbit’s home range varies with population density and food abundance but it is usually under 50 acres and often as small as one or two acres 3.

Essentially stable socially, rabbits live in territorial breeding groups in underground networks of tunnels or warrens. These groups typically comprise of between 1-4 males and 1-9 females . Diet in the wild is mostly leaves from a wide range of vegetation. In winter they eat grasses, bulbs and bark. 4. Wild rabbits are essentially nocturnal 2. Nervous by nature they are constantly on the look out for danger and will bolt back into their burrow at the slightest disturbance 2.

As a prey species rabbits are naturally timid, shy and frighten easily . As such, their response to danger is either to ‘freeze’ or to jump and flee. Although most domestic rabbits are used to being handled by their owners there is always potential for them to suddenly spring up and attempt to escape 2. Handling alone can cause an increase in blood glucose to the order of 8.5mmol/1 2. Other effects of stress include anorexia, problems with the digestive tract, decrease in urine flow, gastric acidity, gastric ulcers, heart failure and death.

Rabbits have a natural instinct to be on guard at all times. Most rabbits do not enjoy being held and carried 6 and they need time to develop trust with a human before they will allow this to happen without a struggle 1.

Many of the effects of stress are linked to the release of corticisteroids and can be life threatening 2. A car journey to the vet, a period in the waiting room next to a barking dog or the excitement of handling can be reflected in the blood, where the white cell count will be altered 2.

Many of a rabbit’s needs in the wild cannot be replicated in captivity, especially burrowing and living underground. Most of the common ways people keep rabbits are actually highly unsuitable (i.e. in wooden hutches) and do not meet the animal’s behavioural needs. The large groups of rabbits that occur in the wild are rarely seen in captivity with many rabbits being kept on their own with no companionship at all.

Exercise is of paramount importance for the physical and mental health of rabbits 2 and the RSPCA recommend that a rabbit needs the same amount of exercise as a small dog 1.
Exercise is usually very limited for captive rabbits and there is a proven link between confinement and the development of spinal deformities .

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