What do you think of when you picture a rabbit?
And shearing? Probably something like this? Right?
Well if, like me you find yourself with an hour to kill after exploring the magnificent Waitomo Caves, in the North Island of New Zealand, you will come face to face with THIS
Waitomo’s ‘The Shearing Shed’ have been specialising in German Angora rabbit products for more than 19 years.
Something of a tradition in New Zealand, the first official imports of Angora rabbits were made as far back as 1928. The precious Angora fibre proved to be popular, with many commercial ‘rabbitries’ springing up across the country. Unfortunately for those who had invested, rabbit farming was made illegal soon after the initial success.
The ban was not lifted until 1980 when the New Zealand government gave permission for breeders to import new rabbit stock, in the form of top quality German Angoras from Germany and Denmark.
When the industry returned many Kiwis were put off by what they saw as cheap, mass-produced Angora products flooding the market from China. Only one commercial German Angora rabbitry weathered the storm, ‘The Shearing Shed’ in Waitomo.
The task of shearing the rabbits for their fibre takes about ten minutes, with two rabbits sheared each day, usually to a crowd of giggling New Zealand tourists. The handlers talk their audience through the process and explain how the rabbits need to be sheared every three months or they will simply die of heat exhaustion.
The shearing process itself seems as well rehearsed as it is ridiculous. The rabbit, hogtied to a table by each limb seems relaxed enough and the handlers are keen to reassure visitors that the creatures are in no distress and are completely accustomed to the process. Still, the rabbit comes across with little dignity, if indeed a rabbit is even concerned with such things.
Some onlookers watched with their hands over their mouths in shock, while the ‘turning over’ part of the process seemed to get the biggest laugh.
The finished article looks pretty silly, but then so did the overly fluffy alternative. Any doubts we had over the ethical conflicts of the process were extinguished when we saw the happily hopping rabbit free of his cumbersome locks. Couple that with the news that this would be the one day of the growing and shearing cycle on which the Angora rabbits would mate and it’s difficult not to be happy for the newly shorn little fella.
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