2011 is the year of the rabbit, according to the Chinese Zodiac. Peace, harmony, and education are associated with the Rabbit. If you’re like me, someone who is skeptical of most things astrological, supernatural, spiritual or otherwise other-worldly, the Zodiac is simply a fun offering of interesting advice and useful ethical navigation to be taken with a grain of salt and informed by whatever is going on in your personal life. I am not convinced that there are only 12 types of people in this world – yet I still find myself reading astrology now and then. I guess it’s just fun to think something in the newspaper is about me.

China’s animal-inspired zodiac showcases a curious affection for animals – infusing them with meaning and symbology… curious because the country itself has no animal welfare regulations and is notorious for brutalizing many of the same animals they elevate with so much cultural importance. From the rabbit fur trade, to bear-bile farms, to zoos where the endangered animals’ bones are served as soup, China is the last place any animal would want to be.

I made the painting above, titled “Unlucky” to symbolize a dichotomy in our relationship to rabbits, to call attention to the silliness of superstition, and to recognize animals that are killed for their skins. A fur coat has just as much superstitious meaning behind it as a rabbit’s foot. The bearer believes the coat to be a form of protection; a talisman that transforms them into an elegant fashion icon, and at a very base level, a symbol of power over those weaker than ourselves.

It is the year of the Rabbit – not of the rabbit jacket or ear-muffs or hat. Not year of the skinned-alive rabbit, nor year of the screaming rabbits (and they do scream), and certainly not year of the powerless rabbit. Why is it then, that most of the worlds rabbit fur comes from China? Why is it that designers are using faux-spirituality like the über-Zen Donna Karan, instead of faux-rabbit fur?

My New Year’s Resolution is to make the year of the rabbit one that a rabbit would want. Please join me by getting involved in the PINNACLE Initiative.

Some other helpful links for animals in China: