Public health officials warn against it. Animal welfare groups are opposed to it. Year after year it causes hundreds of human illnesses and agonizing deaths for baby chicks, ducks and rabbits. But every spring the practice is resurrected.

Giving live animals as Easter gifts has been a tradition for decades, but for the 15th year, the “Make Mine Chocolate” movement is urging people to opt for a one-time sweet treat instead.

cartoon Make Mine ChocolateAn off-shoot of the Columbus House Rabbit Society, the Make Mine Chocolate campaign began in 2002 as an effort to raise awareness of the long-term responsibilities associated with giving a baby bunny as a gift.

“Starting with our signature ceramic pin in the shape of a chocolate bunny, we wanted to start a conversation about rabbit welfare during the Easter season,” according to the Make Mine Chocolate website. “Now it’s time to look ahead to the next 15 years. We need to re-think how we communicate our message and everything is open to a fresh look.

“We’re holding a contest for the most creative ways of spreading the Make Mine Chocolate! message. If you are interested in participating, either as a submitter or voter, please see our flyer.”

Entries must be submitted by end of Easter day, April 16, 2017. By submitting an entry, you agree to comply with the rules described at:

The Make Mine Chocolate campaign focuses on animal welfare, citing that four our of every five bunnies given as easter gifts — that’s 80 percent — are abandoned or die in less than a year.

Similar efforts are mounted annually on behalf of chicks and ducklings by the Audubon Society, Humane Society of the U.S., People for Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

CDC graphic Salmonella outbreaks chicksOn the public health side of the issue, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annually joins state and local health departments in warning consumers about the unintended added-value of disease that comes with gifts of chicks, ducklings and bunnies.

Since 1990, the CDC has recorded 57 Salmonella outbreaks linked to live poultry. Those outbreaks sickened thousands and killed at least five people. The number of individual cases of Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter and other infections from children playing with live chicks, ducks and bunnies is unknown.

Part of the problem is that children are among the most likely to not observe good hygiene around the animals and part of the problem is that children don’t have mature immune systems.

Dr. Joan Schulte of the Metro Health Department in Louisville, KY, told WHAS-TV Channel 11 that children’s immature immune systems are often not strong enough to fight off infections from the pathogens baby poultry carry.

Echoing the message of the Make Mine Chocolate campaign, Schulte said instead of live chickens, parents and others should consider candy chickens for Easter baskets.

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