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Investigation ahead of Easter exposes cruelty in rabbit farming

News Section Icon Published 15/04/2019

Our new investigation released today, 15 April 2019, exposes the cruelty of commercial systems raising rabbits for meat.

Grim investigation ahead of Easter

Investigation on rabbit farming in Italy, 2019.

We have recently visited three Italian caged rabbit farms. Once again, the images show what has been repeatedly reported by European animal protection organisations: rabbits living in battery cages on wire mesh that can cause them injuries and kept in overcrowded conditions where each rabbit has less space than an A4 sheet of paper. These sentient beings can’t stand upright, run, hop or express any of their natural behaviours.

Throughout the Easter holiday season, we are surrounded by images of cute bunny rabbits, joyfully hopping around on green grass," said Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU. This, however, cannot be further away from reality for over a hundred million rabbits raised industrially for meat in Europe.

Olga continued: “Together with other NGOs, we have repeatedly documented rabbit farms across the EU and the footage released today is no different than what we documented in the last few years: all caged systems used in many EU countries are equally cruel! A life in a cage is no life at all. This must end. It’s time for the European Commission to listen to the hundreds of thousands EU citizens who support the "End the Cage Age" European Citizens’ Initiative and put an end to this barbarity.

A European Citizens' Initiative is a direct democracy tool that requires the European Commission to respond to its call. The “End the Cage Age” Initiative calls on the European Commission to propose a ban on cages for animals such as hens, pullets, sows, calves, ducks, geese, quail and rabbits. 

In Europe, more than 300 hundred million animals spend their entire lives in cages - confined, restricted and thwarted from carrying out their natural behaviours. Cages are cruel and completely unnecessary.

In 2017, the European Parliament adopted a report which recognised barren battery cages as an inappropriate housing system for rabbits, showing consideration for the concerns of European citizens on the conditions in which these animals are farmed. 85% of commercial farms use traditional (i.e. barren) cages, 9% enriched, 6% alternative systems out of a total 119 million rabbits commercially farmed. This means over 100 million barren-caged rabbits plus over 10 million in enriched cages according to EU estimates (only 7 million in alternative systems).

  • Barren cages are the most commonly used housing system for rabbits in the EU. Fattening rabbits are reared in them from weaning (around 5 weeks) until slaughter at 8-12 weeks. Cages are made of wire, with no enrichment and are stocked at high densities, with insufficient height. Typically fattening rabbits are kept in small groups but they can be housed individually or in pairs in small cages. They often cause poor health – high rates of disease, high antibiotic use, high mortality. The wire flooring being uncomfortable, leads to feet and hock injuries in does and bucks. In the barren environment rabbits have lack of space and height, no enrichment, limited behavioural expression.
  • Enriched cages, known as the ‘Welfare cages’, consists of the barren cage with the additions of a platform, plastic floor covering and gnawing block. They were developed as an attempt to improve rabbit housing conditions but offer minimal welfare gains compared to barren cages. Space is still very restricted (length, width and height), flooring is still mostly wire, enrichment and behavioural expression are only slightly improved than in barren cages.
  • Alternative systems are available: indoor park and barn systems, outdoor mobile systems and free range.