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Rabbits farmed for meat

We're seriously concerned about the cage systems often used to house rabbits on farms. We believe that all rabbits should be kept in well-managed, higher welfare systems that allow them to behave normally and better meet their physical needs.

Here we look at rabbits’ natural behaviours, the farming system, the welfare issues we’re particularly concerned about, and what we’re doing to improve the conditions they are raised in. We also suggest ways you can get involved to improve rabbit welfare. 

Understanding the needs of farmed rabbits 

Rabbits are active, athletic creatures that can move a distance of two metres in two or three hops and can jump around one metre in height. Most of the facts about rabbit behaviour also apply to farmed rabbits.

Farmed rabbits need the opportunity to carry out their key natural behaviours in the same way all rabbits do, whether they're kept as pets or laboratory rabbits or live in the wild.

Farming rabbits for meat

We believe that the rabbit farming industry in the UK is fairly small. Greater numbers are reared in EU countries. The breeds of rabbit commonly farmed include the New Zealand white, the Californian and the Carolina. Here's more about how they're farmed.

Cage systems

Farmed rabbits are often housed in buildings containing rows of bare-wire cages, which may be arranged in a single row or stacked in two or more tiers. Cages are often only around 45 cm in height. 

Growing rabbits

  • Eight or more growing rabbits are often kept together in a cage with a floor area of around 0.56 square metres – that means that each rabbit has floor space in the cage equal to slightly bigger than an A4 piece of paper. 
  • Young rabbits (called kits or pups) are weaned when they're four weeks old and slaughtered for meat at about eight to 12 weeks, when they've reached around 2kg in weight.

Breeding rabbits

  • Breeding does (females) without young and breeding bucks (males) are usually kept on their own, in separate cages. 
  • Each doe will have around five to eight litters of eight to 10 young per year.   
  • Breeding rabbits are usually kept until they're around 18 to 36 months of age.

Alternative systems

A small number of farms may rear rabbits in better conditions, with open floor pens and hay available in addition to their diet of pellets.

Farmed rabbits welfare issues

We have significant concerns about the welfare of farmed rabbits. Unfortunately, the use of cages to rear farmed rabbits is legally permitted. In the past, rabbit farming has sometimes been advertised as a quick way of making money using spare buildings, equipment and labour. 

This means that rabbit farms may be managed by people who aren't well trained in rabbit care and husbandry. Inexperienced, untrained people aren't in a good position to look after the health and welfare of large numbers of animals. Here's more on why we're worried about farmed rabbit welfare.

Farmed rabbit cages

Wire cage floors can cause discomfort and foot injuries. In addition, typical cage systems don't provide enough space for farmed rabbits to properly exercise and move. They need to be able to hop, jump, run and rear up on their hind legs with their ears erect. Not being able to exercise properly can lead to skeletal spine and leg disorders in older rabbits used for breeding.

Caged farmed rabbits don't 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.

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.


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

  • doesn't allow normal foraging behaviour
  • doesn't promote good digestive health
  • doesn't keep their teeth in good condition.

Improving the lives of farmed rabbits

Here's more on what we're doing to help improve the lives of farmed rabbits in the UK.

Calling for higher welfare of farmed rabbits 

We'd like to see all farmed rabbits reared in higher welfare systems that provide enough space and the right types of facilities to allow the animals to exercise and behave normally. Here are some of the main improvements we are asking for.

  • More space to carry out normal movements and exercise, such as hopping.
  • A structured environment with areas for resting, feeding and exercise, including refuge areas for withdrawal/escape and raised platforms to provide 'look out' points and the opportunity for jumping.
  • Vertical space to rear on their hind legs, with their ears fully erect.
  • Comfortable solid flooring, with suitable clean bedding material such as straw or shredded paper to allow them to dig.
  • An enriched diet including hay and edible gnawing objects such as wooden sticks or blocks to promote a healthy digestive system.
  • A well-ventilated, hygienic environment, kept at a comfortable temperature.      
  • Lighting that allows rabbits to behave normally with appropriate periods of light and dark.
  • Social contact – female and young rabbits housed in harmonious social groups.
  • Only competent, trained staff allowed to care for and handle rabbits.

We'd like stronger laws to protect farmed rabbits, and more research and investment into the development of enriched group pen systems that properly cater for their needs.

Engaging with governments and retailers

We take every opportunity to raise our concerns about farmed rabbit welfare with governments, retailers, and other key organisations, highlighting the need for the improvements listed above to be made.

Providing guidance on keeping pet rabbits

We've produced guidance on improving the welfare of pet rabbits. Many of our recommendations for improving the lives of rabbits kept as pets also apply to farmed rabbits.

Farmed rabbits – how can I help?

If you're concerned about the welfare of rabbits farmed for meat, here's what you can do.

Choose higher welfare

If more consumers insist on higher welfare products, more supermarkets will want to stock them. This will encourage more farmers to improve their farming practices, so more farm animals will benefit.

If you buy farmed rabbit meat, please only choose meat from rabbits reared in higher welfare systems such as enriched group pens, and refuse to buy meat from rabbits who were reared in cages.

Ask your retailer

If you see rabbit meat for sale, please ask the retailer whether the rabbits who produced the meat were farmed, If they were, please ask about the conditions they were reared in.

Find out more