No matter how people feel about rabbits, almost all can agree that they are cute. Like the panda, they are judged by their looks. Humans are seemingly hardwired to respond to childlike features: large head, big eyes, soft contours. The panda is nature’s ready-made teddy bear; a carnivore evolved into a safe herbivore. Fluffy and charismatic, they are the perfect poster child for the conservation movement.
Rabbits force us to look at hypocrisy of cute and how we treat a cute animal. Rabbits hit us exactly in our most uncomfortable moral spot when we consider whether to eat them or experiment on them. Whole Foods brought this out when they launched a program to sell rabbit meat in 2014. Protesters stood outside the door condemning the store for selling our pets as dinner. Protesters held up signs of a fluffy rabbit with a knife and fork hovering above it looking cute and innocent. Chickens, fish, cows and pigs do not provoke the same level of outrage; no one stood with the rabbit people advocating for them.
We are irrational about animals and how we decide which are loved or hated. Most of us live with these inconsistencies without examining them. In the panda and rabbits I want to play with peoples’ expectations and emotions; peel away some of the preconceptions and expose the unease of our relationship with each animal and how we symbolize them.