Recently a “Hedgehog cafe” named Harry was opened in Tokyo, Japan, and become local attraction point for millions of people.
Not only you can order food or coffee in this cafeteria, but also hold the hedgehogs, take a photo of them and even buy them a meal, such as mealworms. If you like any particular hedgehog, you can buy them as a pet too.
At the first sight this cafeteria offers nice personal experience, if not the real state of affairs supporting such business.
Hedgehogs are indeed lovely animals and many people would apparently want to play with them. Nonetheless majority of those people won’t know simple facts about these creatures: hedgehogs are nocturnal, which means that they’re active during the night and sleep during the day, so petting them during daytime might be extremely distressing for them.
DJ Schubert, a wildlife scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), explains. “Hedgehogs are nocturnal, but even if they weren’t, allowing humans to handle, touch, and harass them is utterly unacceptable.” Hedgehogs may become accustomed to handling, but they remain wild creatures by nature and instinct.
Even though those mammals do not have indications of stress, they are extremely stressed and their welfare is compromised
There are 15 species of hedgehogs in the world, but there’s one thing all of them have in common – when they’re stressed, they roll into a tight, spiny ball, which is the hedgehog’s defensive position.
At one point in the photo shared by one of the users, a hedgehog does exactly this while being cupped in a woman’s hands. Yet the woman seems to be unaware of the animal’s possible distress, and the text caption on the video says, “Have a cuddle buddy.”
“When visitors go into this café and see hedgehogs curled up in a ball, that should be the first sign that the animal is stressed,” Schubert said. “And touching and uncurling the animal undoubtedly generates huge stress that we don’t understand.”
Schubert adds that such cafeterias also promote hedgehog trade, which in turn supports illegal wildlife trafficking.
“These types of operations have so many negative consequences that may not be readily available or readily observable,” Schubert said. “But they’re very real, and they cause suffering and cruelty to the animals involved.
If you are indeed an animal lover, Schubert suggests not supporting this cafe or any cafe that’s similar to it and avoid buying a pet hedgehog from a store.
If you want to go to an animal cafe, Schubert says dog and cat cafes are much better alternatives.
“If it’s a domestic cat or a puppy cafe where the owners are trying their best to help find homes for animals that might otherwise be euthanized, I’m all for that,” Schubert said. “That’s a wonderful enterprise that should be promoted.”