I recently watched this “Sweet Million’s” commercial, one ostensibly cute enough to elicit a genuine “awww” from Dick Cheney. Bloggers from across the country have almost unanimously agreed that “widdle bunniewunnies riding in widdle teacupsis” is the cutest thing they have ever seen. In contrast, my non-comformist younger sister watched the 30 second clip and noted that “they all look so sad.” Sad, scared, or sedated? Once we push past the sickeningly sweet image of a rabbit spinning in a teacup, we are forced to confront the grim reality that bunnies do not, in fact, voluntarily race down slides, drive bumper cars, take photos, or ride in hot air balloons. The only rabbits I have ever seen at a carnival were cooped up in cages to be sold as household playthings—and, unsurprisingly, they were not wearing doll’s clothing. So this begs the larger question – what exactly are these rabbits doing in this commercial, and more importantly, who monitors their use in advertisements to ensure they are handled properly and treated humanely?
That job belongs to the American Humane Association (AHA), though it is painfully clear that they have no qualms about bunny bumper cars. While on set, the AHA works with the Screen Actors Guild to “make certain that no animals are harmed during the filming.” But their supervision starts and ends there—the AHA does not monitor the training of animals prior to filming, and is not responsible for their fate after the shoot. Perhaps they assume that the bunnies merely win a few prizes and head home after an exciting day at the fair.
Ironically enough, the AHA is funded by none other than the Screen Actors Guild, calling into question the reliability of its final monitoring reports and standards. The AHA has fielded harsh criticism for its blatant lack of consideration for the animals it oversees. Trainers have beaten chimps in front of AHA representatives who coldly turned a blind eye to the abuse. In 2005, 2 horses died during the filming of Flicka, but the AHA immediately defended Fox (the film’s producer) and gave the movie an “acceptable” rating. As the big-budget production studios are the entities directly funding the AHA’s operations, it is entirely expected that this supposed “humane society” gives its blessing (in the form of the ‘No Animals Were Harmed’ end credit disclaimer) to the same industry it should be strictly regulating.
The factors motivating the advertising industry are glaringly obvious—employing adorable animals in commercials sells product (or in this particular commercial, promotes gambling). Add a few costumes and an addictive song to the equation, and you’ve got infatuated bloggers posting things like “OMG THAT IS THE CUTEST COMMERCIAL I EVER SEEN EVER! I HAVE 2 RABBITS AND NOW I MAKING A VIDEO OF THEM ON A UNICYCLE! AH! SO CUTE!!!!!!! :)” The motives of the AHA on the other hand remain fuzzy (pun intended). If they truly cared about the well-being of these helpless animals, they would have remembered that sex sells and urged Sweet Millions to spin Playboy Bunnies on teacups instead.
Filed under: animal cruelty, animal ethics, animal welfare Tagged: | AHA, American Humane Association, animal abuse, animal cruelty, animal ethics, animal suffering, animal welfare, bunnies, rabbits, Screen Actors Guild, SGA, Sweet Million