Rabbits

Animal Liberation NSW with the invaluable help of Animal Liberation WA has conducted a thorough investigation of the rabbit meat industry in Australia.

What we found was horrifying.

Rabbits are affectionate, social animals that enjoy the company of other rabbits. They express joy through 'binkys' where they run, jump into the air, twist their body and flick their feet. Rabbits also have strong hind limbs which allow them to leap great distances. They can jump up to one metre high and three metres long.

Within the battery cage though, these natural behaviours are denied.

Like battery caged chickens, meat rabbits are kept in small cages suspended above the floor where faecal matter builds up below them. A 100 doe farm creates roughly 153kgs of faeces plus urine each day (1).This causes high ammonia levels which burn the fragile hocks of the rabbit’s feet and irritate their eyes. Imagine the smell and the ammonia build up these animals are exposed to.

Cages are often constructed with wire mesh flooring which restricts thermoregulation and causes foot and hock injuries as well as pododermatitis to rabbit feet (2). The space they are provided is roughly 0.07m2 per rabbit inside the cage. This is only slightly bigger than an A4 piece of paper (3). There is no stimulation inside the cages and no outside access.

The cages are also of insufficient height. Rabbits require 70cm per hop (4). Jumping is nearly impossible within the barren cages provided. They struggle to stand with ears erect and are deprived of expressing natural behaviours such as digging and hiding (4).

Meat rabbits are killed at roughly 12 weeks of age. Females kept for breeding can be forced to live in these conditions for 56 weeks while they produce 7 litters (1). Despite their need to socialise, bucks (male breeder rabbits) are kept in total isolation (3).

Rabbits are susceptible to parasitic diseases as well as bacterial and viral infections (1). Husbandry practices at battery caged facilities create inviting atmospheres for these health problems. Head tilt (wry neck), where the head tilts to one side, is a common problem with a variety of causes including middle ear infections, parasitic infections, brain tumours or head trauma (5). Head tilts can frequently be so sever their eye is scraped along the ground and the rabbit has problems moving and feeding.

Cervical dislocation is the most common method to kill rabbits on the farm that are sick or injured (3).

 

Background

In Australia rabbits have been considered 'pests'. For this reason, wild rabbits, including companions dumped by humans, are subjected to forms of biological and chemical warfare. This commonly takes the form of developing, introducing and spreading diseases such as Myxomatosis. People who have seen poisoned or diseased animals are often extremely distressed. Chemicals commonly used include Pindone. After ingesting, rabbits can take over two agonising weeks to die (6).

Since the release of these viruses and poisons most rabbit meat is purpose bred and intensively farmed (1). Game rabbit is still killed and sold, but there is no way of detecting if the wild rabbit had been poisoned with Pindone baits, or is affected with Calicivirus, or Myxomatosis. The consumption of these animals could be detrimental to human health.

Myxomatosis can also affect battery caged rabbits. It is illegal to vaccinate any rabbit in Australia against Myxomatosis. Intensive farms are required to insect proof their facilities to ensure outbreaks of the virus do not occur (1). However, investigations by Animal Liberation revealed that many farms have no insect proofing and that insects regularly resided inside the sheds. Insect numbers were high as they are likely attracted by the amount of faecal matter build up.

 

Our Investigation

This industry is little known for good reason; those running the industry would rather you did not witness how they operate their businesses. Here is your opportunity to find out why.

Animal Liberation has conducted a thorough investigation of the rabbit meat industry in Australia. What we found was horrifying.

Footage from a variety of farms show dead and decomposing rabbits left in cages, rabbits showing stereotypical behaviours including excessively biting the bars of the cages, and evidence of infection and/or disease.

Investigators account, "I recall being taken back by the smell of the place- it was like a burning ammonia smell that made my eyes water. These places are smelly, dirty, and dusty- I wanted to leave immediately. I can’t imagine how horrible it must be for these animals to live there every day."

"I saw several rabbits with overgrown toe nails that had not been trimmed. These rabbits appeared to struggle on the wire mesh caging as their nails wrapped around the wire flooring making movement difficult." The Model Code of Practice for the Intensive Husbandry of Rabbits states: "The nails of adult rabbits may have to be trimmed periodically to prevent them catching on the wire mesh of the cage." (3 p7)

"Loud music played inside the sheds- I think it was used to mask outside noises frightening the rabbits who would try and jump in their small cages in an attempt to flee. However the music seemed to cause more stress- I imagine they struggled to sleep with the constant noise and light." Lights are often used at night time to increase feed uptake of rabbits (and therefore weight) who are more likely to eat when awake.

"Severe overcrowding was an obvious issue- the rabbits could hardly move. The cages themselves were barren; no bedding was given to the rabbits being grown for their meat."

"Some rabbits really struggled with the wire flooring. Filming from underneath I could see how much the mesh pushed into the bottom of their feet. Some of the kittens actually became stuck in the wire mesh and their little feet slipped through the holes."

"Under the cages masses of fur and faecal matter where in huge piles. They were covered in insects who were also feasting on rabbits who had died inside cages." The Model Code of Practice for the Intensive Husbandry of Rabbits states: "Ailing or injured rabbits should be treated promptly." (3 p8)

Health issues were also prevalent in our investigation with rabbits that were dead and decomposing, and others that had patches of fur missing. Efforts to assist these animals or to remove dead animals do not seem to have been made.

What Now?

Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium have banned battery cages for rabbit meat farming. Let's make Australia next!

You can help end their suffering -

  1. Say "no" to rabbit meat
  2. Contact local butchers and restaurants and ask them not to sell or serve rabbit meat
  3. Tell your friends and family about the horrors of rabbit farming (e.g. share this website)
  4. Join Animal Liberation and help us in our fight against battery caged rabbit meat farming.

 

References

1) Prime Facts (2006). Profitable and Sustainable Primary Industries. Prime Fact 104. NSW DPI.
2) Compassion in World Farming (2014). Investigation into EU Rabbit Farming.
3) Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Intensive Husbandry of Rabbits (1999). Primary Industries Report Serries 33. CSIRO Publishing.
4) Compassion in World Farming (2013). Rabbit Farming: Current Production and Alternative Systems.
5) Dana M. Krempels (2014) Head Tilt (Torticollis) in Rabbits: Don't Give Up. Available: http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/tilt.html
6) Sharon Beder & Richard Gosden (2011). Pindone Rabbit-Baiting: Cruel and Careless? Available: http://www.uow.edu.au/~sharonb/PindoneDiscussion.pdf