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Rabbit Breeders Association HQ in Knox Could Attract Congressional Hearing

Monday, February 22, 2021 @ 07:02 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

5DMK3088KNOX, Pa. (EYT) – Congressman GT Thompson was so impressed with his Friday visit to the new home of the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) Headquarters and International Museum in Knox that he said he would hold a congressional hearing at the building.

(PHOTO ABOVE: Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson and Lisa Kerle from Donna Oberlander’s office listen as ARBA CEO Eric Stewart discusses his organization’s new headquarters in Knox. Photos by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography.)

Thompson is the GOP leader of the House Agriculture Committee. He is now the most senior Republican on the committee and the second most senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee.

“We were established in 1910,” ARBA CEO Eric Stewart said. “Our headquarters has been in Chicago, Illinois, Pittsburgh, and most recently in Bloomington, Illinois, for 37 years.

“I’m a Clarion County native, and the cost of operations in Bloomington was easing us out.”

Still unpacking boxes at the former Countryside Craft building, Stewart explained the work of ARBA to the visiting legislators. ARBA members come from every continent except for Antarctica. ARBA sets international judging standards for rabbits, similar to rules used for official dog shows.

“That’s actually our biggest bread and butter work is our standard of perfection,” Stewart continued.

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(PHOTO -L to R: Commissioner Wayne Brosius, Lisa Kerle (Donna Oberlander representative), State Senator Scott Hutchinson, Commissioner Ted Tharan, Eric Stewart, GT Thompson, Commissioner Ed Heasley.)

“We develop the standards. We have a rigid, even acceptance process. We have a lot of breeds because all of the domestic rabbits here in the United States actually originated in Europe. They all descended from the European wild rabbits.

“There are hundreds of breeds, but we only recognize specific ones. We recognize 50 breeds under our standard, but there are more that are under development…it’s about a six-year process if you’re good and you can pass all of the requirements, but we also have to make certain that they’re reproducible. This isn’t just a novel thing.”

Thompson said he will also invite U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson, of South Dakota, to the future hearing in Knox. Johnson is the top Republican on the House Agriculture Committee’s Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee.

The new headquarter also provides more room for the library that is often visited by members for research.

“Our library in Bloomington was about a little bit smaller than this room,” Stewart added, as he pointed to boxes of historical documents. “But since we moved here, this is an outstanding building. We’re going to have three other rooms of just library and then have the operations in the back.

“We’re really hoping if we can get all the renovation work done, we would like to see if we could potentially do dedication and ribbon-cutting in June. We’re going to wait and see what the weather brings and contractor availabilities.”

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Rabbits can be bred for many uses. For example, Stewart breeds Angora Rabbits for the long fibers of its coat, known as Angora wool, gathered by shearing, combing, or plucking.

Stewart also emphasized their nutritional value.

“Ever since Bugs Bunny, you know, they anthropomorphize rabbits, and people don’t realize they are ‘rabbits.’ It’s one of the most efficient sources of protein that exists and saved thousands of lives during world wars. We have programs internationally. I’m sure you’ve heard of international programs trying to get some of these developing countries to utilize rabbits,” Stewart explained to the representatives.

“Ever since they anthropomorphized rabbits, we get demonized by particular groups over using rabbits as a protein source. It’s efficient and incredibly healthy…It’s even more efficient and healthier than poultry.”


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