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Historical rabbit grading  furs in the 1930's

Historical Lessons from Rabbits

What did we learn when rabbits were introduced into New Zealand?

Many anti-fur people will argue that by allowing a fur trade to exist at all, you are by default making sure that the possum will never be eradicated in New Zealand.

The NZ government has come to accept that the possum may never be completely eliminated from New Zealand, no matter how much money and manpower they throw at the problem.

The goal now is to control numbers to a manageable level that allows the native bush to regenerate and native bird and insect species to recover, especially in National Park sanctuary areas.

The NZ government currently spends around 80 million dollars per year on possum control using 1080 poison that is banned in some other first-world countries.

Outlawing the possum industry will not ensure the destruction of the possum in New Zealand. In fact, once you take away the incentive to hunt possums, the effort and money needed to reduce possum numbers will increase hugely.

History shows that rabbits were introduced into New Zealand in the 1800s, frozen rabbit meat and rabbit skins were a huge multi-million pound (it was pounds, not dollars in those days) export industry in New Zealand for many decades.

But by the early 1900’s, they realized that rabbits were out of control.

The introduction in 1870 of stoats and weasels to keep the rabbit population in check had failed (this would also become a major ecological disaster), there were much easier and slower-moving meals for the stoats and weasels, in the form of New Zealand's native flightless birds.

In 1947 the Rabbit Destruction Council was established, and among other things, levies were imposed on the sale of rabbit skins.

In 1952 records show that 3,000,000 rabbit skins and 1,000,000 carcasses were exported so the industry continued to flourish, and the rabbit population did too.

On the 11th October 1956, the rabbit industry was completely de-commercialized. New legislation was passed into law that made the sale of rabbit skins or rabbit carcasses for export, or even for sale within New Zealand illegal.

This was intended to “ensure that neither skin or carcass had commercial value, which would in turn ensure that the eradication campaign would not suffer because of any commercial interest wishing to retain sizable rabbit populations”.

Unfortunately the rabbit continues to be a major problem today even after the illegal release of the Rabbit Calici-virus Disease in 1997, by desperate farmers in the South Island.

Stopping the rabbit meat and fur industry did not lead to the eradication of the rabbits, and we believe it won't for the possums either.

Grading rabbit furs Reference number: PAColl-6348-02

Grading rabbit skins. [ca 1930s].- Reference number: PAColl-6348-02. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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