The Big Issue : Edition 534
THE BIG ISSUE 7 – 20 APRIL 2017 11 RUN, RABBIT, RUN! MY WORD THE AIR BLASTING through the half- down car window chills the sweat as it rolls down my neck. The point is nearing. His perspiring palm slips on the gearstick as he changes down to third. The pine forests, previously a mottled blur, become clear as we slow and nervously edge towards the hulking red sculpture that marks the border. I sit in the back seat holding on to the box, trying to shield its contents with my body. “Just breath and stay calm,” he whispers loudly, as much to himself as to me. This is it, the final hurdle. The traffic ahead starts to move. The red statue is disappearing behind us. No flashing blue lights, no sirens, no helicopters overhead. We pass a rusty sign that marks the border crossing, and I peer into the box to see two little black eyes staring up at me. Welcome to Queensland, little rabbit on the lam. In a world rife with conflict – whether political, religious or just tired slacktivists arguing with each other over Twitter – I’m relieved to find something that I’m sure we can all agree on... bunnies are just the cutest things ever. Rabbits would have to be one of Mother Nature’s best creations yet. That little cotton-ball tail. Inspired! Those flopsy ears. Cute! And don’t even get me started on how adorable they look when they eat. Also, fun fact, a baby rabbit is called a kitten. Okay, I’ll concede that not everyone agrees with me on the whole “rabbits are the best pet ever, times infinity” argument. We really should’ve thought a little harder about introducing rabbits to Australia in the 18th century (long story short, it didn’t end well). Cut to 2017, and their brand of environmental destruction costs up to $1 billion each year. Rabbits are listed as an official pest under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002, and keeping a rabbit as a pet in Queensland is against the law. Being caught with a rabbit can result in fines of up to $44,000, and reportedly up to six months in jail. The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries Queensland (DPIFQ) has been known to describe rabbits as “Australia’s most destructive agricultural and environmental introduced animal pest”. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that clearly the members of DPIFQ have never come across “Charlie the Bunny Eating Tiny Sushi” on a late- night YouTube binge. I was once part of a petition to make it legal to keep desexed rabbits as pets in Queensland. I eagerly signed and shared the petition, and sat back to wait for the inevitable apology from the government and swift amendment to the law. To my surprise, a few months later I received an email from the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries explaining that, while they appreciated my passion, adding to the species of animals Queenslanders were allowed to keep as pets wasn’t really on the top of their priority list. Unperturbed, I began to delve deeper into the draconian world of Queensland law and found a few loopholes. It turns out that you can apply for a permit to own a rabbit in Queensland if you can prove that a) you need to use said bunny for a specific entertainment purpose, ie magic, or b) require a rabbit for scientific and research purposes. Sadly, having not received my welcome letter from Hogwarts, and being barely mid-way through my biochemistry degree, I began to think I’d have to give up on my dream. At the time, I was going out with a boy who had a plethora of tattoos, which included a wide-eyed bear, a goose and a bright green T-rex. After meeting him for the first time, my dad diplomatically suggested that he would probably end up in jail because anyone with that many tattoos must obviously be a felon. I, of course, brushed this off as an acutely insane misjudgement of character. Little did I know that it would only be a matter of time before I would find myself playing the part of his accomplice. As it turns out, breaking the law is devilishly easy. The drive down to NSW was a relaxing hour and a half, and the girl at the Tweed Heads pet shop couldn’t care less about our carefully scripted fake names, addresses and back stories. We left the store and drove back to Brisbane with an insanely adorable jet-black baby bunny named Kingston. Sadly, my glory days as a bunny- mama were short-lived, as we broke up soon after this misadventure. Was it the stress caused by the guilt and shame of it all? Probably. It’s been a few years now since my days of youthful recklessness and I’ve relocated to the gorgeous state of Victoria. I’m not going to admit here that my main reason for doing so was the absence of a particular law, but feel free to read imaginatively between the lines. » Helen Todd is a writer and creative with a passion for social enterprise. While she is now based in Melbourne, her heart will always be in Queensland. HELEN TODD EXPLAINS WHY THE EASTER BUNNY MAY NOT BE WELCOME IN ALL PARTS OF THE COUNTRY. RUN, RABBIT, RUN!