Just when you thought it might be safe to fly again, here comes United—which has surely been cursed by a vengeful wizard—with another PR catastrophe, and also a tragedy: the death of a very large and good bunny named Simon in transit.
Simon’s story is getting particular attention on the heels of United’s fiasco concerning the forced and violent removal of 69-year-old passenger Dr. David Dao a few weeks ago. Not only was the incident atrocious, but it was terribly mismanaged afterward, with tone-deaf statements from United and escalating public outrage. Dr. Dao’s past was smeared in the press, as though that had any bearing on his assault by airport officers.
So we were already primed to hear more inhumane horrors from United, but Simon is an unexpected blow. We’re dedicated animal lovers ’round these Mary Sue parts, and it’s hard for us to read about any innocent creature suffering—but we think it’s important to share their stories.
Simon descended from a famous Continental Giant rabbit family: his father Darius holds the Guinness World Record for longest rabbit, and Simon, at 3ft, was expected to grow to 4ft or more, and seize the title.
At 10 months old, the coal-black, blue-eyed Simon was traveling from London to Chicago, where, according to his breeder Annette Edwards, he was headed to live with a “famous” buyer. Edwards is suspicious about his loss, telling The Sun: “Something very strange has happened and I want to know what. I’ve sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before.” Per The Washington Post:
“Edwards … said Simon was on his way to a new home in the United States and had been declared ‘in good physical condition’ and fit to travel by a veterinarian the day he left.”
Of course, we don’t know yet what happened to Simon in transit. But a young bunny bred for rabbit fame suddenly dying on a United flight has, of course, ignited Internet interest and anger. This time, United seems to have learned that a sympathetic response is the way to go: “We were saddened to hear this news. The safety and wellbeing of all the animals that travel with us is of the utmost importance to United Airlines and our PetSafe team.”
United says that they’ll investigate what happened. But considering that the spin is ongoing in the Dr. Dao case—yesterday saw a glut of news stories with the officer’s report that Dr. Dao was “combative” (you might be too if you were being forcibly dragged from your seat, then injured)—I don’t expect there to be many forthcoming revelations about what happened to Simon, especially if United was at fault. As The Guardian reports:
The most recent figures from the US Department of Transportation – dating from 2015 but released this February – show 35 animal deaths occurred during transit across 17 carriers in the US.
United accounted for 14 animal deaths in that period with a further nine reported injured among the nearly 100,000 animals carried by the company.
For many of us, the loss of a pet due to someone else’s negligence is the stuff of nightmares, and I intend to follow this story to see if any developments are announced. Sometimes the Internet’s outrage machine when it comes to animals seems outsize compared the the suffering of humanity that can go unnoticed, but it’s also an element of people that makes me feel warm and hopeful. Many, many of us care about what happens to creatures big and small. And we won’t forget about Simon.
(via The Guardian, top image: Shutterstock)
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