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Farmed rabbits - key welfare issues

Farmed rabbit pups in a nest box inside a cage system © RSPCA

We have significant concerns about the welfare of farmed rabbits. Unfortunately, the use of cages to rear farmed rabbits is legally permitted. We would like cages to be phased out, and all farmed rabbits to instead be reared in enriched, higher welfare systems that are more comfortable, allow them to carry out their natural behaviours, and ensure a good quality of life.


Cages

Typical cage systems do not provide enough space for farmed rabbits to properly exercise and move (hop, jump, run and rear up on their hind legs with ears erect).


Wire cage floors can also cause discomfort and foot injuries. These factors can further lead to skeletal spine and leg disorders in older rabbits that are used for breeding.


Caged farmed rabbits do not have the space and facilities needed to express important natural behaviours including:

  • normal social interactions with other rabbits (play, grooming, etc.)
  • digging
  • hiding
  • gnawing on hard, edible objects
  • normal mothering behaviour such as covering the nest and moving away from the pups.

Diet

The pellet-only diet that many farmed rabbits are fed does:

  • not allow normal foraging behaviour
  • not promote good digestive health
  • not keep the teeth in good condition.


Mortality rate

Mortality (death) rates for farmed rabbits in the EU have been reported as often being as high as 25 to 30 per cent, due to problems such as respiratory and gut diseases. This is much higher than is typical for most other types of farm animals.


Skill and experience

In the past rabbit farming has occasionally been advertised as a quick way of making money using spare buildings, equipment and labour. Inexperienced, untrained people are poorly equipped to look after the health and welfare of large numbers of animals.


Find out how you can help improve the lives of farmed rabbits.