The Truth About Feeding Live Rabbits at Big Cat Rescue
Joe Schreibvogel has tried to upset Rabbit Rescuers, who we hold in very high esteem, by lying to them about our feeding practices at Big Cat Rescue. He contacted many of the rabbit rescue groups in an attempt to cause them distress in the hopes that they would help him slander Big Cat Rescue. He hates us because we are going after him in federal court and are doing all we can to stop the abusive practice of breeding big cats to use as photo props. His relentless breeding is the cause of so many more carnivores being produced who must eat other animals. The angst he has caused between rabbit rescuers and Big Cat Rescue is misplaced as it is our goal to end the captivity of big cats which would end the need for other animals to be raised as food for the big cats.
Despite false claims to the contrary, it is widely accepted by those who do legitimate rehab and release, to feed live prey because it is the only way to ensure the success of animals returned to the wild. It is the preferred method of feeding carnivores by all of the most respected groups such as the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.
I sent the following to the head of the rabbit rescue group who was on the ABC piece but she did not respond and apparently did not explain to all of her rabbit rescue friends.
I feel that my quick answer to you about our feeding practices did not fully answer some of the questions that were later raised by your supporters. The following is long, but I hope you will find it to address issues that may still trouble you about us.
At Big Cat Rescue, our 100+ exotic cats are carnivores and therefore must be fed a carnivorous diet. One night a week the cats receive “whole prey,” which are dead rats and rabbits that have been bred by a commercial breeder for this purpose and purchased frozen by us.
ONLY bobcats that we are rehabilitating in order to return them to the wild are fed live prey.
We must feed them live prey so that these orphaned bobcat kittens are able to learn their hunting skills; and so adult bobcats recovering from being hit by cars can regain their hunting skills. Our rehabbing bobcats are rarely given rabbits while at our sanctuary; the rest of the time here they consume rats. Big Cat Rescue usually has one or two rehabbing bobcats at our sanctuary each year. You noted in the ABC news piece that the rabbit didn’t run initially, but I often see birds and squirrels that wander into cages do the same thing and wonder how on earth they survived as long as they did. It just happens sometimes.
The people who volunteer at Big Cat Rescue love animals. Many of us are vegetarians and vegans. We wish there was a way to feed our cats that does not mean the sacrifice of any life. It is not and has never been our intention to offend animal and rabbit lovers. To that end we have removed the video from YouTube. The people who were trying to make this into something it wasn’t will be pirating copies and posting them to try and prolong the controversy, but if you send me the URLs I will have them removed based upon copyright issues, with the exception of the ABC report.
There is also much discussion about an image of some of our volunteers on the back of a golf cart, smiling and holding dead rabbits. I had not seen the photo before today and sent out inquiries to find out what the circumstances were behind what appeared to be totally inappropriate behavior.
A former volunteer remembered the photo and told me that it was from Christmas two years ago. The manager had told some of his most dedicated volunteers that they could give one of their favorite cats the treat of a whole rabbit. Back then it was a rare thing because we couldn’t afford whole prey and the ladies on the cart were smiling ear to ear that their favorite cats were going to have such a wonderful gift. They were most certainly not smiling about the fate of the rabbits. (The rats and rabbits fed to our non rehab cats all arrive frozen)
I think that you and I might have been able to come to terms on this a little better than we did; and hope that it helps to know the following:
1. We purchase from the same source that Busch Gardens, Lowry Park Zoo, Sea World and many snake breeders do, where the rats and rabbits are bred specifically for use as food.
2. These prey animals are killed via carbon dioxide which causes them to fall asleep and die in their sleep. I maintain that there is no good way to die, but this seems more humane than any other that I know of, except old age.
3. Ironically the prey animals are born and raised in conditions that look identical to the way chickens are raised for human consumption, although not as over crowded. As you may have seen in the ABC piece, I and my daughter, our rehabber, are vegetarians and my husband is a vegan. Many of our volunteers, including all three in the photo you saw, are vegetarians because we do not want an animal to die to fill our bellies.
4. I do often take VIP tours into our live prey room because I am so proud of the tender care these animals are given in their last days.
5. The only thing harder for us to do than feed a rabbit to a cat is to make the decision of euthansia for our cats when their quality of life has diminished to the point that it is the only humane thing to do.
I believe that all life is precious, and let’s face it, there isn’t anything on the planet much more precious than a bunny. My daughter and I both grew up with rabbits that we rescued and cared for until they did die of old age. My first rescue was from my grandfather who operated a rabbitry that provided rabbits for human consumption. He was loading up the van to take to them to market and at the age of 8 or so I was setting them free as fast as I could. I wouldn’t let go of as many as I could hold and my father called a truce by taking me home with them. I don’t expect that you or your group will ever be OK with our need to train our rehab bobcats using live prey, but I have 30 years experience and believe it is the only reliable way to ensure our bobcats will be able to survive.
One of the commenters on Facebook said it better than any of us today when she suggested that we keep our focus on the true evil doers who cause rabbits to be bred and discarded and who cause big cats to be bred and discarded. Our mission at Big Cat Rescue is to care for the 100+ cats we have and to end the abuses that cause so many big cats to be in need of rescue. You know from our alerts that we are working hard toward that goal. We even decided to forego our big fundraiser, The Fur Ball, this year so that we could devote even more time to ending the trade in big cats as pets, props and parts. Doing so has brought the bad guys out enmasse against us and I suspect that it was Joe or his cronies who were passing on so much inaccurate information about how we feed.
As we win in the legislative arena we will be able to end our need for many animals, including rabbits, to feed the cats. We will probably always be involved in rehab work, but that is usually only one or two bobcats per year. I don’t expect you to embrace what we do, but hope that you will feel some relief at knowing the facts of the matter and that our intentions are pure. Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions or suggestions.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625