My childhood Easter memories: A new spring dress, white shoes and gloves; a rainbow-hued cellophane-wrapped basket crammed with candy; multi-colored eggs in hiding…and the animals. Soft and furry bunny babies. Green, blue and pink chicks; little “peeps” that mysteriously disappeared after a few days.
I honestly don’t know where the tradition of giving tiny, helpless creatures to children on this holy holiday originated but it is a tradition that should be irretrievably broken.
Although I’ve watched TV ads with dismay as a lime-tinted hatchling popped out of a plastic egg, thankfully the horrible and inhumane practice of dyeing has been deemed animal cruelty by those who possess an ounce of decency. Yet, unfortunately, fluffy chicks can still be found in cheap abundance at your local feed store.
And much to the detriment of Peter cottontail, the Easter bunny myth rages on. Come the lovely month of May you need look no further than our animal shelters for proof. Rabbits galore, and they didn’t breed themselves silly to get there.
These hapless young animals are the remnants of Easter Sunday, tossed out as casually as that torn and crinkled cellophane, tragic symbols of an otherwise glorious occasion.
Far too many people do not project far enough into the future when acquiring a pet. Their own financial, physical, and emotional capabilities notwithstanding, the very real needs of the animal are often ignored.
This is especially true at Easter. For that fuzzy, itty-bitty chick will soon be a scratching, squawking chicken. And although baby rabbits are adorable, as adults they are a whole different animal than that precious little hippity-hoppity of six months ago.
So soon there will be a mini-farm in the back bedroom and the kids will have returned to their video games. Now what?
Humane societies constantly see the pitiful aftermath of these hasty, impulsive decisions. Yet they will take your feathered former-friend and hope for the best. They will try to calm your Easter bunny that, for lack of attention, has been reduced to a cage-trashing maniac. And they will listen to the loud and clear testimony cloaked in your sob story that the newness has worn off and, oh, what a mistake you made. That baby cluck has turned foul and the infant March hare is now a ‘dirty wabbit.’
Hopefully, the lesson will be learned here before it’s too late. For, although your children may beg and plead, the reality is that not long after the sun sets on a few Sundays, they will most likely ignore those once-upon-a-time little bundles of life.
If parents succumb to this seasonal whim, odds are great that it will be the animals who pay the ultimate price. Alone, neglected, and in a hell not of their own making, the meaning of Easter will surely be stained.
So please resist the temptation of crass commercialism and teach your children intelligent compassion instead. Cute and cuddly stuffed animals don’t mind at all being tossed aside and forgotten.