> Football playing rabbits and more! We celebrate Rabbit Awareness Day
Football playing rabbits and more! We celebrate Rabbit Awareness Day
The Scottish SPCA has released preliminary analysis from their current research project in time to celebrate their Rabbit Awareness Day today.
We have been working in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh on new methods of teaching animal welfare as part of their free Prevention through Education programme, which is delivered to Scottish primary schools annually.
We are in the process of introducing a new ‘Rabbit Rescuers’ feature to our education programme which will teach young children how to care for pets and encourage children to develop healthy relationships with animals. Trialling the use of rabbit toys, both soft and mechanical, we also aim to reinforce key rabbit welfare messages.
Professor Jo Williams, Clinical and Health Psychology from the University of Edinburgh said, “We have demonstrated that ‘Rabbit Rescuers’ improves 5 and 6-year-old children’s understanding of rabbit welfare needs, understanding of rabbit sentience, and improves children’s attitudes about cruelty towards rabbits.
“The intervention with the mechanical rabbit was most affective, but the fluffy toy rabbit also helped children learn about rabbit welfare and led to greater attachment to pets scores. This project shows that carefully designed age-appropriate animal welfare education can be really effective in very young children.”
Head of Education and Policy Gilly Mendes Ferreira said, “These results are a huge step forward for the Society as we believe education is the key to preventing animal cruelty in the future. Interestingly, the use of these toys also opened up conversations that showed children believed rabbits, both wild and domestic, ate rabbit stew and played football – just like Peter rabbit from the films before they took part in the project! “We are pleased that this research confirms our belief that real animals don’t need to be used to teach effective animal welfare messages. Rabbits in particular can be caused a great deal of stress being handled by a number of different people, and as part of our Rabbit Awareness Day we are encouraging people to be more ‘rabbit aware’.” Gilly added, “Every year we reinvigorate the programme that we deliver in primary schools across Scotland.
“This year we’ve been working closely with the University of Edinburgh to assess what improvements can be made when we deliver our workshops in 2019 to ensure we are having the biggest impact possible on children’s knowledge about animal welfare and encourage them to be responsible animal citizens. It is our belief that children’s knowledge, understanding and attitudes towards animals and animal cruelty can be taught without the need of exposing them to real animals. As such we have never taken animals into schools but through evaluating our workshops have demonstrated the methods we use do make a difference and can increase a child’s understanding that animals have feelings.
“Sadly rabbits are often bought as pets for children, and left forgotten at the bottom of gardens. Rabbits are very sociable creatures that require specialist care. More information can be found by following #RabbitAwarenessDay on our social media channels.”