So I get a forwarded e-mail from the House Rabbit Society. Initially, I think: Oh, how cute, this must have something to do with friends “Ned” and “Meg” each selling their homes to the first folks shown their real estate.

But no.

The subject line actually goes: “Tell Subaru Its Commercial Is Ignorant.” Uh, aren’t they all? Ignorant, I mean.

There’s a terrible commercial for the Subaru Forester SUV, where a little girl abandons her pet rabbit in the woods, and the abandonment is portrayed as an admirable, loving act!

The commercial opens with the little girl and mother driving in the car through the woods, and the mother says, ‘Are you sure about this?’

The girl says yes. The car goes deeper into the woods. The mother says, ‘Here?’ The girl says no. The car goes further into the woods. ‘Here?’ ‘No’ Finally, a rabbit hops by and the mother says, ‘Here?’ Seeing the rabbit, the girl finally says ‘Yes.’

The two get out of the car and remove a large, all-gray, lop-eared domestic rabbit from a cardboard box and let him go into the woods. The mother and daughter then walk back to the car, happy and satisfied. This is portrayed as a loving, tender moment between mother and daughter, as if the mother is proud of the daughter for carefully choosing the site where they abandoned their pet rabbit.

Italics mine. The letter continues:

Subaru thinks it’s being animal friendly with this ad. Instead, it’s a study in ignorance. I grew up in a rural area of Southern Maryland, and down there, people refer to ‘dropping animals.’ Almost every companion dog my parents had was an animal abandoned into the wild. Please contact Subaru (1-800-782-2783) and educate them about the cruelty of abandoning companion animals. Just say that you’ve been in the market for a new car but after seeing this ad, you’d never buy a Subaru. On the web, go here, urge them to pull this commercial.

This is where, for me, it gets tricky: If they pull this commercial for you, and then they pull another commercial after pressure from another bunch of complainers, what happens to freedom of speech?

Down the tubes!

I contact Subaru for a corporate comment: “Animal rights groups insist this will encourage wholesale “dumping” of animals, and they urge Subaru to yank the commercial. What’s your official position?” Alas, they don’t reply by my deadline.

But a local animal welfare activist, whose opinions I respect, does respond:

I agree with you that wild animals are not pets,” she writes. “However, the fact is that this is a lop-eared domestic rabbit and it’s just months after Easter. During Easter many people buy rabbits and then dump them in animal shelters over the summer when they go away on vacation. I ran [an] animal shelter for years, I know!

They also dump them into forests where they live about 5 days. I once caught a guy dumping 3 domestic rabbits into a forest. I rescued them and found good homes for them. How stupid could Subaru be as to show a family dumping a domestic rabbit into the wild. Believe me, the rabbit rescue people are really upset about it. It only takes a minute to call them. Perhaps they’ll pull the commercial.

Then, another lapin-protection crusader chimes in:

So weird. I saw that ad and was totally appalled by it! I planned on writing a very angry letter to Subaru and threatening to organize a boycott of their cars … That degree of ignorance and stupidity was beyond the limit of tolerance! Grossly irresponsible! Probably prosecutable by the SPCA! Subaru thinks it’s so PC – targeting gay and family markets. Well, they really mucked up with this one!

Before I can catch my breath, this arrives:

My kids were totally freaked at this commercial. Brendan said it was labeling the rabbit ‘food’ and putting him in front of hungry carnivores. Poor thing.

I offer these suggestions: Step back and see the consequences of this kind of pressure on free speech. When it comes to Subaru, or any corporation, educate them. Enlighten them. Inform them. Urge them to contribute to an animal welfare group. Get them where they’re guilty. Suggest they hire an animal-welfare consultant for future commercials. But why start out as adversaries. Negotiate! Win-win! I believe in free speech, untrammeled, without censorship.

Not everyone agrees: “Baloney! They asked for what they get.”

Cruel? Or unthinking? You decide.

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