Please don’t make our illnesses your costume this halloween.

Illness is not a costume

Did I need to say that? You’d think it would be pretty obvious that to dress up as a person with a serious illness many have to battle is pretty insensitive, outside the realm of what most would consider acceptable, no?

Apparently it’s not so obvious.

Thanks to stigma, something which is furthered by what some are considered to be light hearted novelty costumes, people with mental health problems are often portrayed as dangerous, scary, unpredictable, violent, prone to lashing out and even murderous. In previous years we’ve seen a vast array of them which are centred around the stereotypical ‘mental patient’ to ‘psycho killer’.
The reality is that people with mental health problems are far, far more likely to be the victims of violent crime than they are to commit it. They are more prone to abuse, isolation, harassment, assault, and murder.

Associating mental illness to violence is already helping shape the way that stigma towards people with mental illnesses manifests in our society. Turning it into a joke ‘mental patient’ costume is to bring to form the very real stigmas that we face and that make life harder for us.

A great example of how this view of violence permeates a culture is in the United States gun regulation debate. Every time there is a mass shooting, which sadly is many in the past few years, what’s the first thing people ask?

“What’s wrong with them? They’re obviously mental”

The NRA regularly describe the issue as being one of sickness as do many others in the pro-gun side of things. The general line is “‘crazy’ people shouldn’t be allowed guns, stop mentally ill people!”
The possibility of a register of people with mental illnesses in order to prevent future mass shootings has been thrown about on more than one occasion. At the same time you’ll find it used it as an opportunity to encourage people to get guns in case they come across a violent crazy person.

The association of seemingly random violence and mental health problems gets into a lot of people’s heads. When you’re hearing it from news stations around the world, in papers, on social media, it’s a hard association to break. It’s easier to accept that someone’s ‘out of their mind’ than just an average human being capable of harming people, but how many of those committing this violence have actually been found to be mentally ill? How many were motivated by something to do with a mental illness? Where are all the drives to encourage ongoing psychotherapy for mental illness to prevent it from happening, if it’s such a great problem? Where’s the extra funding towards it?

While the US example has far more obvious impact and has a far more sombre message, things like these costumes, novelty as they are, assist in compounding that oft heard message of ‘mental people hurt people’, every time it comes up in a TV show, in a book, it pushes it that little bit more. The stereotype is dragged out so much that a lot of people don’t even question it. A UK survey a while ago found that a third of people thought those with mental illnesses are more likely to be violent.. The more this message is broadcast and the more people who choose to listen to it, the more stigma people with mental illnesses have to deal with. The more people are scared of us, see us as crazy, see us as dangerous.

There are a lot of outfits and themes out there which don’t bring more misunderstanding and pain into the world, that don’t harm people who are already having to deal with some very heavy things. Please, use one of those. Don’t make our health your costume.

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Muscovado and evaporated milk ice cream (with gifs!)

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 cup dark muscovado sugar (if you don’t like it too sweet, 2/3 cup is fine!)
2 cups double cream
1 large tin of evaporated milk
Dairy fudge cut into small cubes (optional)

It helps it to freeze quicker if you leave all of the ingredients in the fridge for some time before mixing. Putting the cream and milk in the freezer for 20 minutes before hand helps too.

I use an ice cream maker to freeze this recipe and I haven’t tried it without one so can’t comment on the results. I imagine for best results you’d be better off using one, but I do know some recipes come out pretty OK without, so it’s up to you. (Edit: I tested it and it’s passable, though does not work as well as in the ice cream maker). I know descriptions of consistencies can be pretty vague, so I’ve added some gifs to try and give an indication of what on earth I’m talking about.

Using a food processor, electric whisk, or anything else capable of whisking things, get the eggs beaten up for a couple of minutes until they stiffen up a bit and begin to resemble a fluffy cream.

Once the eggs are whipped, they should look something like this!

Gradually add the sugar a spoonful at a time while continuing to beat the mixture. Whisk it up another couple of minutes until it’s well blended and thickening up.

After the dark muscovado sugar has been added and the mixture’s been further whipped, this is the consistency you should be close to.

Add the double cream and leave it to whisk for a further few minutes, again until it thickens and starts to resemble thick, slightly whipped cream. Using the food processor, this took around 4 and a half minutes.

After the double cream has been added, the whisk starts to leave trails in the mix, and it starts to look more gelatinous.

Add the whole tin of evaporated milk and whisk for another minute or two, just until it’s all very well blended.

 

Following the manufacturers instructions, pour the mixture into your ice cream maker. Towards the end of the freezing process add the chopped up bits of dairy fudge.

Bonus mesmerising gif of it being turned into ice cream.

 

 

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You wouldn’t talk about a person with cancer like that… Or would you?

“You wouldn’t talk about a person with cancer like that so why do you think it’s ok with mental illness?”

As both disabled and mentally ill may I suggest this bullshit dichotomy die in a pile of thermite? I keep seeing it in stupid memes since the Cambridges decided it’s now “ok to say” (to who? It’s not like funding is there for the services, if we even feel safe or supported seeking help).

People do talk to and about disabled and sick people negatively. This myth that it somehow becomes completely unspeakable when our health is weaponised against us is just that, a myth. We are told it’s our own fault, that we’re just not trying, not positive enough, that just need to drink kale smoothies and take a multivitamin.

People with cancer who smoke or smoked never hear the end of it, people with lifestyles judged morally dubious by some get their illness blamed on that, being too negative or cynical is seemingly a big cause of cancer, spinal cord injury, genetic disorders and all inbetween judging from what we get told, as if the body is manifesting that negativity into substance.
I’ve even heard that owning a set of tarot cards is why body doesn’t produce collagen correctly and my spinal fluid got lost one day.

Don’t try that fad diet your late aunt was on that involved only eating orange coloured food and banana milkshakes while sat under a waterfall with crabs in your hair? Then you obviously don’t want to get better. If you don’t try then it’s your own fault, isn’t it?
If your doctor’s told you this is it, for life, it doesn’t get any better and you don’t keep holding out for that miracle or breakthrough then well… Of course you’re not going to get better with that negativity. You shouldn’t be just trying to get on with your life as you are but rather remaining ever hopeful and looking for every new treatment.
You don’t exercise? Exercise cures so much though! It’s amazing what getting active can do. If you don’t do it then how can you know it doesn’t help? What do you mean you can’t physically do it without being in agony? It produces endorphins! Well fine, stay like that.

The in-joke you may see come up on my feeds about small breakfasts? It came from a friend being told their genetic condition, the same as I have, would get better if only they had a small breakfast every day. The suggestions being brought up almost always has a failure to comply to being implicitly blamed.

“So what’s wrong with you then?”
“Not enough small breakfasts, apparently”

As well as having physical disabilities I am mentally ill. It’s something I’m very open about and you can read about at length here, and though I’ve received more support, particularly in crisis, for my physical health problems than mental health ones, I’ve also received more expectation, judgement, blame, and bullshit for them too.

Our experiences with disability shouldn’t be erased and pitted against each other to make a point about common acceptability of stigma and shame. It should be considered unacceptable regardless.

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Basic chicken noodle soup

Ingredients
1 chicken breast, diced into small pieces
1 carrot, cut into small sticks
A few handfuls of spinach leaves, shredded
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
half an onion, finely chopped
750ml chicken stock
250ml veg stock
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
Fine egg noodles.

Fry the onion and garlic in a bit of oil or butter, add the diced chicken, carrots and ground ginger. Cook for a few more minutes, moving it all around occasionally. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Turn down to a lowish-moderate heat and simmer (a kind of vigorous simmer, I guess) for around 20 minutes.
Add the noodles and spinach, bring to the boil for another few minutes until the noodles are cooked and the spinach is nicely wilted. Serve it up and get stuck in.
A little bit of soy sauce, diced chilli, black pepper, different kinds of vegetables and any number of other bits and pieces can be added to it to change it up a bit, too!

If you want to make it stretch over days, just take out individual servings of the broth as and when you want it, boiling up each portion and adding the spinach and noodles.

It also goes well as just a broth soup with some bread and the chicken can be substituted for turkey.

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Spam, sweet pepper, and beans, fried in soy sauce.

Ingredients
1 bell pepper, cut into cubes
1 200g can of spam, cut into half centimetre cubes
1 tin of three bean salad, drained
1 cup of sweetcorn
3 eggs
Dash of milk
Rich, dark soy sauce (I use Lee Kum Kee’s Premium dark soy)
Olive oil

Whisk the egg and milk until blended, and stick in a microwave for a few minutes until resembling scrambled eggs. Set aside.

Fry the spam and bell pepper in a bit of olive oil until slightly browned. Add the beans, sweetcorn, and eggs with about a tablespoon of soy sauce (add more of less if you like, this is just my preference). Continue frying, stirring regularly, until the beans just start to take on a bit of colour and their shells begin to stiffen a little, and the egg starts to get a nice fried up crust.

Serve with rice, on toast, in a burrito, or however else you think you might like it. It works quite well in toasties with cheese, but then I have weird tastes and I’ll put almost anything with cheese, so don’t necessarily trust me on that.

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Spicy cajun bean and chickpea burgers

Ingredients
4 slices wholemeal or seeded bread, processed into breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds, processed into crumbs (optional)
2 tins of three bean salad, drained
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
1 tin of kidney beans, drained
2 eggs

Spices
3 heaped teaspoons of cajun spice (I use ‘Butchers’ sundries’ cajun glaze)
2 heaped teaspoons of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
2 teaspoons of hot chilli powder

Greaseproof paper (optional)

Mix the breadcrumbs and ground sunflower seeds together, divide it into
two and set half of it aside.

In a food processor blend the beans, chickpeas, eggs, and spices up until almost smooth, leaving just the odd little lump of bean and chickpea for texture (go for lumpier or completely smooth if you prefer, this is just my preference). Once you’ve got the mixture how you want, mix half the breadcrumbs/ground seeds into the mix.

Pour the remaining breadcrumb mix onto a large plate and, using your hands, take a golf ball-sized handful of bean mixture  and ball it up. Roll the ball in the breadcrumbs until covered and then squash it down a little into a burger shape and set it aside onto greaseproof paper (this prevents any issues of it sticking to plates or storage box, and allows you to pile them up easily).

Cook them under the grill on mid-high for around 7-8 minutes a side, or until as crisp as you want them to be.

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A plea to car and van drivers everywhere: Please stop making our lives harder.

I am a wheelchair user. Navigating the pavements of the local towns in the rural West Country can be an absolute nightmare at the best of times. Drop kerbs lacking where needed, uneven pavements, overgrown hedges, and steep hills. Many places here haven’t caught up with the idea that some of us can’t get up steps which means our access can be limited to certain routes. Given how difficult this makes life in this area for people like me, as well as people in scooters, powerchairs, blind people with guide dogs, or people with pushchairs, I humbly request that you don’t make life harder still by parking on pavements and blocking drop kerbs.

Alternative routes to where you are parking your cars is not always available. Without drop kerbs either side of you, going in the road is rarely an option open to us. On busy roads attempting it can put us at risk. Even if you’re doing it for ‘just a minute’, we don’t know how long you’re going to be there or where you are in order to ask. We also don’t know whether asking you to move your car is going to lead to an aggressive confrontation, as has happened to many of us.

For the past few months in trying to get out of the road where I live to get to the nearby bus stop I’ve found my route blocked by exactly this. Cars completely blocking the main pedestrian exit from an estate which is largely made up of elderly and disabled people. To get around these cars I have to ring someone to help me take another route which I cannot manage by myself, either being pushed over muddy grass or adding 20 minutes to what would be a 3 minute journey, subsequently missing the bus.

One of the drivers in question. Upon requesting he move, he has kindly stopped doing this.

Please, please consider people like me more before you do this. The stress and upset it can cause is far more than many people know.

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Sport and ‘ability’: Am I no longer disabled then?

[Cross-post from my Facebook]

I saw a photograph taken by @inkysloth which was posted to Twitter. It’s of a paralympics advert that has recently popped up in New Cross, and it’s one causing a stir among disability circles (and a lot of annoyance from others in disability sport).

Paralympics billboard by channel four. It shows two Paralympians doing quite normal things, with 'disability' written across it. Only the 'dis' part is crossed out.

I was going to leave this with just my comments elsewhere but it’s bugged me (as I know it has a lot of people).

I was what you could loosely call an athlete, and I’m working hard to get back there.. I’m good at what I do, swimming. I’m also pretty disabled. Does this mean I’m not disabled anymore? Have I ‘risen above it’ like this suggests Paralympians have?

Like fuck have I.

A lot of very intensive training, designed to work with or around things I’m affected by, went into getting me to that point. Some very good coaches gave their time and assistance in assessing how I could get it right and improve. In places my disabilities are even utilised. That’s how it works… It takes figuring out and incorporating. Finding what fits.
When I get out the pool I still walk like a toddler (at times I can walk), still use mobility aids, and still can’t do a lot physically. I don’t magically get fixed because I can do intensive not-drowning well.

Limbs don’t grow back, illnesses don’t always vanish, but there’s another point… Why is my athleticism considered less than someone able bodied? Why is any of ours? The whole narrative of ‘overcoming’ disability, becoming ‘as good’, is drenched in that message (see also the grimness of being ‘inspiring’)

I was a member of the disability club where I swim, and there were some amazing swimmers there. In their own right. WITH their disabilities, and with no need to compare them to people who are able bodied, or anyone else. Their achievements shouldn’t be judged by a physicality they do not share.

I’m fucking proud of what I’ve achieved in swimming, as a disabled person. When I left the disability club for masters (a group that doesn’t focus intensively on it/mostly non-disabled), my disabilities were still a part of what I was doing, still taken into account, and things I had to consider constantly while I swam (and it’s a lot of thinking)

Disability doesn’t stop because we achieve things, and to suggest it isn’t just insulting but erases a big part of us; of our lives, our experiences, and our training.

(And yes. I know ‘but they mean Paralympians, not you’, but ableness is used as a yardstick for us constantly. All of us. This doesn’t help. Those Paralympians are still disabled too, they still got to that point with their disabilities, and they wouldn’t be Paralympians otherwise)

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Thinking about getting a bunny? You may want to think again.

Every year around this time it’s the same thing. Easter Eggs begin to line the shelves of the supermarkets along with cute plush and chocolate rabbits, and with those little and hoppy toys many children begin to get ideas. “Dad, can we have a bunny?”

I see social media light up with photos of adorable little baby bunnies, of children holding them gleefully with pride, people talking of their children’s wishes and inklings of giving in and – one which makes me want to fucking scream, – pet stores displaying their package offers. For some time now I’ve wanted to try and write something which covers their needs in detail as well as the realities of keeping rabbits and the challenges they present.

I know people getting rabbits around Easter might not seem too ridiculous to most people beyond ‘you shouldn’t get a pet on a whim’, and that it seems silly to get frustrated at children happy with pets, but with rabbits comes extra layers of concern. Bunnies are one of the most misrepresented animals, and a hell of a lot of people go to get one without having a single clue what the hell they’re getting themselves into.

Bunnies aren’t cheap pets that you just buy a hutch for and then just have basic little costs going along with bags of bedding and feed. They have very complex needs that most, after the initial cuteness of them being tiny little kits wears off and they grow, just aren’t willing to fulfil. It leads to a lot of animals living short, unhealthy, and miserable lives where they’re neglected. What’s most concerning is that many people don’t even realise they’re doing this to them, or what a rabbit’s needs and lives are supposed to be like. Hell, I’ve seen a lot who don’t even understand their diet and exercise needs.

Rabbits are Britain’s most neglected pet, with ones bought in the run up to Easter commonly not making it past a year old. Part of this is considered to be down to mistreatment and part down to poor breeding, where pet stores (looking at you here, Pets at Home) stock up before Easter ready for the influx of customers. 1 year… That’s just 10% of a rabbit’s life expectancy, though I’ve seen many who perpetuate the idea they only live until 2 or 3 since that’s what a lot do end up surviving for. My husband and I can both think of and name over 10 people each who’ve had rabbits who, without doubt in hindsight, have had rabbits die far too young due to poor care.

Many people will even just let them out into the wild once their children no longer pay attention to them, which consigns them to death due to the amount of wild traits being bred out of them leading to them being incapable of surviving.

In 2011, it was estimated that of the roughly two million rabbits kept as pets in Britain, 75% of them suffered neglected and/or mistreatment.

That’s a whopping 1.5 MILLION rabbits being poorly kept, or to put it another way, every 3 out of 4 being consigned to misery. The article I have linked there is worth reading for an understanding of the sheer enormity of the problem beyond just those numbers alone. 60% were unaware that rabbits are social and intelligent creatures who need mental stimulation, which is the idea that leaves rabbits left alone in hutches with nothing to do , and around 75% of rabbits seen by vets were in poor health. Poor diet and exercise having led to overgrown and rotting teeth, overgrown claws impairing walking, and obesity. It’s a wonder some rabbits do make it to 2 years with the situations they’re kept in.

They also cost as much as a dog to keep beyond the initial costs, which are steep in themselves. Almost all of the hutches and cages that you’ll find in pet shops like Pets at Home and Jollyes are actually unsuitable to keep rabbits in, contrary to the ‘Ideal for rabbits!’ labels. The majority of rabbits in the UK are kept in housing that they really should not be in. A minimum size (6ft x 2ft x 2ft – RWAF) hutch will set you back a bare minimum of around £100 and, if you’re keeping it indoors (which is largely considered preferable), you’ll need to throw in a lot more to make it suitable for indoor living, as well as spending time and money rabbit proofing your home itself.

Inside or out, it needs to have an area that is closed off, allowing the little guy somewhere to hide from perceived threats and make things more comfortable. If you do end up keeping a rabbit outside, as many do, having a fully wire-sided hutch can lead to exposure in bad weather, to cold, or to predators. All of these, as with so many things with them, can be fatal.

A hutch alone is never, ever enough, either. Too many rabbits bought in the run up to Easter essentially live their entire lives beyond the first month in a hutch, alone. Exercise plays an enormously large part in keeping rabbits healthy. This is true of almost any animal, but with rabbits often being kept in unsuitable conditions it’s a massive black mark on our collective keeping of them. Obesity, gas, and slowing gut can come with poor diet but poor exercise too. They need the space and time to run around. If you keep them in a little box, or let them into a small run for a few hours a day they’re not going to be able to do the things they normally would to keep happy and healthy. To give it the space it needs to run about, leaving a rabbit in an open garden might sound quite idyllic, but you’d have to watch it the whole time to prevent predators from getting to your newly beloved pet. It would need to be a garden free of all plants that can kill them – which is a hefty list, make sure it’s completely secured to prevent escape and, if they have a penchant for burrowing, some way to stop them getting out like that too.

It’s all well and good thinking that a run with a wire base may help solve the issue but wire bases should be avoided where possible. In the young it can cause splayed feet and in all buns it puts them at risk of sore hocks which can lead to infection.

Runs that are large enough and have enclosed shelter are around the same price as a hutch, but you’ll also need to take into consideration that again, shelter to hide away and keep from the elements, and digging their way out may be an issue. The cheapest of runs tend not to be the most secure against predators either, with flimsy wire and easily broken frames.

I mention the need for shelter again because it’s really very important. If your rabbit encounters something like a fox and is stressed out enough by the experience, it can kill them. The animal doesn’t even have to do anything, terror felt by a rabbit is enough to trigger an extreme physical response. Not only is there a risk of shock in circumstances they take as being extreme, but there can be after effects like GI stasis or other gastric problems. Even if a rabbit seems okay after an encounter, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are. They have very sensitive digestive tracts and them slowing down or stopping can very easily and quickly turn deadly.

Exposure to water can be equally dangerous. Pet rabbits and wild rabbits are very different in some ways and coat is one. We like fancy rabbits to be soft, pleasing to touch and groom. In order to get their coats to that point of delicateness we love so much, we bred out what protects wild rabbits from the rain. They have oils coating their fur which stop water from sinking in, and making it easier to shake off. That in turn protects from the shock which can come from the cold of wet fur in open air, protects from the infection risk it can raise. Pet rabbits should not be got wet, and if it comes a point you have to bathe them it should only be under vets advice, and in most cases they will suggest dry options or damp rubbing before submersion.

It’s common for them to get smelly bums which will need some attention to prevent ill health and, in summer, fly strike. Fly strike being yet another thing that can kill you little bundle of floofy glee.

They need to be vaccinated annually. In their true, ‘bullshit. I’m not a prey animal, fuck that and fuck you, I’ll do what I want, thanks’ style, rabbits kind of fucked up Australia a bit after we introduced them. Our solution was to try and fuck them up right back by introducing viruses to kill them off. Rabbit haemorrhagic fever and myxomatosis, to be precise. Much like how we introduced rabbits and lost control of them, we fucked up the same way with the viruses. They’re still around today and still a major risk to rabbits in a variety of nations across the world. They are horrible viruses that lead to painful deaths, and myxie in particular is still very, very common in the UK. To risk not vaccinating is irresponsible.

They also need their teeth checked regularly (usually done when vaccines are as a kind of package deal) and if you’re unable to do it, their claws kept clipped down to a reasonable length to stop issues and discomfort arising.

They need a good bedding that is not cedar or pine. The majority of the bedding bought in pet shops gives off that tell-tale woody scent which is a big indicator that it’s not okay. That smell means phenols, which like in some other small animals can affect how their bodies process certain medications. Rabbits can get sick very quickly and if that happens it’s important their medications work. To buy hemp or other suitable bedding in bulk can keep costs down, buying smaller bales of suitable bedding can get pricey fast, but you then need somewhere to store it.

Did you know you should limit certain greens due to their high oxalic acid content?

The same is true of hay. They need lots of it. Every day they eat their own size in the stuff, it’s the main staple of their diet and they should never be without it. Dust extracted oxbow or meadow hay is the most common, and your options are to buy by the bale to save or buy small packages of 1-2kg at a time and pay 5 times as much in the long run.

They should have a mix of greens every day. 3 or more types, amount varying depending on size but being careful not to include too much of certain cabbages, avoiding certain lettuces, making sure it’s not too much of this too many days in a row, avoiding giving more than 1 thing a day containing this, only giving a tablespoons’ worth of that… I printed the list out and pinned it to the hutch to form the shopping lists for what to give them, and write it down every day so I don’t end up doing things like giving too many days of parsley or spinach, too much of the cabbages they’re allowed over a week and so on. I can’t bloody remember it and I’m not sure many can.

I recommend checking out the House Rabbit Society’s thorough list of what greens can be given and in what amounts per 0.5kg of weight. It’ll give you a good idea of why it can be confusing for some folks!

Vegetables, contrary to what a lot of people seem to think, aren’t things you give much of, or at least you shouldn’t. Throwing a whole carrot into a rabbit hutch is bloody stupid and should be avoided, it’s a myth they eat a lot of them that sprang from Bugs Bunny. A few mannerisms of Bugs came from a character in ‘It Happened One Night’.

From Wikipedia

The unpublished memoirs of animator Friz Freleng mention that this was one of his favorite films. It Happened One Night has a few interesting parallels with the cartoon character Bugs Bunny, who made his first appearance six years later, and who Freleng helped develop. In the film, a minor character, Oscar Shapely, continually calls the Gable character “Doc”, an imaginary character named “Bugs Dooley” is mentioned once in order to frighten Shapely, and there is also a scene in which Gable eats carrots while talking quickly with his mouth full, as Bugs does.

Their diet should be supplemented by a well balanced nugget mix, too. They shouldn’t be free fed but rather have a set amount daily to correspond with their size/weight. This shouldn’t be museli, which leaves them picking out their favourite parts and leaving others, meaning their nutrition suffers. Given a lot of museli isn’t exactly of the greatest quality already, that can lead to a lot of problems like obesity, gas, and the gut slowing down, much like with a lack of exercise.

Misrepresentation of character is another issue that comes up a lot.

You don’t really see them on TV mid-high kick, or stamping in the middle of the night so loudly that your neighbours complain about you doing DIY at 3am. You see these adorable cuddly little things either being held happily or munching on grass peacefully in a garden, as though their main state is docile and calm. Little angels that are easy to care for and absolutely would never sink their teeth into your hand or use your face as a launch pad in play time. They’re shown with children and are often assumed to be the kind of pet that’s ideal for them. A start along the road of responsibility that won’t be too much for them to handle and won’t cost a bomb.

I think I’ve already made it pretty fucking clear they’re complicated animals already, but the bit that amazes a lot of people the most is finding out the reality of living with them. The docile, calm, and child friendly myth that floats around couldn’t be further than the truth, and this next bit has already got a few reactions of ‘holy shit’, ‘what the fuck?’ and ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ in draft stage when I shared it. While appropriately, a lot of bunny enthusiasts and owners I know have been very ‘lmao yep’.

Bunnies are not child friendly. Rough handling doesn’t go over well with most animals, and some are far less tolerant of it than others. I would put bunnies well within the ‘least tolerant’ list of potential pets. If you handle them wrong, catch them in the wrong mood, or they just feel being a dick all of a sudden, you can find out they can do an incredible amount of damage.

I learned this the hard way. I’ve kept rabbits for around three years now, and within my first year I was bitten clean through a part of my hand. The pain of a rabbit bite is unbelievable and they tend to be deep. In breaking an altercation when introducing my two, moving one away from the other, I was kicked square in the chest and left with some surprisingly prominent scarring as a result. I narrowly avoided similar on my face from similar circumstances twice.

In my first year of bunny ownership I was injured far more, and more severely, than in over 10 years of living with a house full of fostered cats, pet ferrets, rats, and dogs. These aren’t all injuries from mistakes on my part. You will sometimes have to pick up a rabbit for whatever reason and they’re quick little fuckers with strong back legs. They can, and they will, catch you with a claw at some point.

If you catch them in the right mood, they’re still not a pet you can really pick up and cuddle. They’re unlikely to sit on your lap and affection will always be on their terms. All the bribery in the world will not necessarily work to ingratiate you with a bunny that really just doesn’t feel like being anywhere near you.

I’ll use my girl, First Sea Lord Tasty Soup, as an example on this one. She’s very anti-contact when anywhere near what she considers her domain. She’s the dominant of the two that I have, and when in the living room (they have a hutch and pen up one end, and get to use the rest as a run for a lot of the day/evening), all other beings are considered below her on the pecking order (the dogs, my husband, and myself included). She won’t just run away if upset about something, but rather she’ll get confrontational. If she wants to kick up shit about something, there’s nothing you’ll ever do to stop her.

Being part meat-breed, she has strong back legs which are great for making a lot of noise with stamps; something they do when annoyed, happy, know it upsets the dog and just spotted it go passed, or frankly just feel like it. She kicks, uses people as spring boards, nips at ankles, and no attempts at house training will stop her eating the furniture. She has a particular appetite for skirting board and carpeting.

I’ve been asked on more than one occasion why I keep her given her behaviour, which ranges from stamping all night to bullying our Staffordshire Bull Terrier, but the fact is it’s perfectly normal for a rabbit to be a volatile little wanker.

Don’t get me wrong, I love her to bits and it’s not all bad behaviours. She’s a grump but she can also be such a happy little thing, and taken away from that perceived area she’s got labelled as hers and hers alone, she’ll spend some periods of time cuddling up and being stroked. It doesn’t usually last long until she wants to go back to her home area, but it’s still time I can enjoy. Watching her binkying about the place is a great source of entertainment in itself and there’s a lot of games she’ll play with sticks, tubes, and other things.

She’s also got a vulnerable side in that she’s really scared of grass, which is perhaps the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen in either of them, next to her regularly getting hay fever.

My other rabbit, Archduke Casserole, is the opposite. While he’ll also throw the occasional tantrum (I have not witnessed anything quite like The Great Tantrum of 2013. 6 hours of grumbling and stamping because I took a fucking strawberry plant away from him that he’d already eaten the majority of), he loves attention. Nothing is better to him than a good head or ear rub and he’ll follow you around until you give him the focus he’s desperate for. Take him away from their usual area and he’ll start looking for what he can destroy. Usually it ends up being your hands as you try to protect the soft furnishings and your clothes.

He has a mean streak too, though very different than Soup’s volatility.

I left him in the garden for a moment a few years ago while I let the dog in, and he unfortunately met a neighbour’s cat. The cat, incredibly, was the one that fared badly from the situation. The screams I heard that left me scared for his life turned out to be coming from this ginger lump of fur with rabbit teeth sunken into it and getting kicked in the head repeatedly. The force of a rabbit’s kick is so strong it can lead to them breaking their own spines, and having felt what that kind of force can be like with claws to boot, I can only imagine it must have smarted a bit to get that not just full on in the face, but repeatedly while he clung on and stopped it getting away. I broke them up and he chased it off up the garden. Once I was sure he was okay (even if the cat didn’t injure him, I’ve never seen first hand what stress and shock are like in rabbits and was understandably concerned given the risk they pose) I actually felt really bad for the cat.

He’s been very anti-cats since then. We had a problem with the cat belonging to a neighbour directly next to us not long after he’d got it: It kept getting the wrong house. During the summer it kept coming in through our window and we’d have to chase it off before he spotted it or we’d be the audience to a rather grunty war dance. We get to witness the same when there’s thunder, too.

Rabbits are incredible animals with amazing characters that can make you laugh until you cry, but they can definitely test you to the end of your patience. While I find them to be worth the strife, I do often find myself overwhelmed and, to keep them in a way that is fair and healthy for them, I doubt I would be able to manage if not for the help of my husband.

Please, if you’re considering getting a bunny, whether for Easter or any other time, do a lot of thinking and research before hand and be sure you’re prepared to take the cost, the volatility, the education, the space, and the time. No pet should be taken on lightly without knowing all that’s involved, but when it’s one where so many are taken on with such enormous misconceptions being rife, with their welfare suffering in such large numbers and to such a degree, it’s better to be absolutely certain what you’re getting yourself into. For them, and you.

If you’re not, then please, get a chocolate one instead.

 

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Spicy stuffed portobello mushroom

24717007692_7dcd004162_kStuffing
Slice of wholemeal seeded bread
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1/2 tin borlotti beans
1/2 bell pepper (or a bunch of frozen sliced peppers, though it makes it wetter as i found out)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp hot chilli powder (or in my case a smidge of extra hot)
Other ingredients
1 Portobello mushroom

Butter

Pre-heat oven to 200C24808607266_db6edc51d7_k

Using a food processor, blend up the stuffing ingredients until it’s all breadcrumbs and tiny chunks.

Melt some butter and brush it onto the outside of a portobello or other large mushroom. Place it onto an oven proof tray, and spoon the stuffing into it. Put it into the oven for 30-35 minutes.

I put this together in a rather ad hoc way rather than following any strict instructions, I didn’t think to write it down as I went along but this is the gist of it. If you butter a tray and spread the stuffing out about 1/2cm thick, baking it at 180C-ish for around 40-50 minutes, you get some lovely biscuity stuff that goes amazing with hummus.

 

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