Rabbits are affectionate, social animals that enjoy the company of other rabbits. They express joy through ‘binkys,’ where they run, jump, twist their body and flick their feet. Rabbits also have strong hind limbs which allow them to leap great distances, jumping up to one metre high and three metres long. Within the battery cage, these natural behaviours are denied.
Animal Liberation has conducted a thorough investigation of the rabbit meat industry in Australia. What we found was horrifying.
Life in the Cage
Similar to chickens kept confined in battery cages [link to battery cage issue page], rabbits bred for their flesh are afforded a space that is only slightly bigger than an A4 piece of paper. These cages contain no form of stimulation and no access to outside. The cages are also of insufficient height. As rabbits require 70cm per hop, jumping is impossible within the barren cages provided.
Cages are often constructed with wire mesh flooring which restricts thermoregulation and causes foot and hock injuries as well as pododermatitis (an inflammation to the feet primarily caused by infection or disease).
Rabbits bred for their flesh are killed at only 12 weeks of age. Females kept for breeding can be forced to live in these conditions for 56 weeks. During this time, they produce up to 7 litters. Despite their inherent need to socialise, bucks (male breeder rabbits) are kept in total isolation.
Due to the lack of space, caged rabbits are unable to express any of their natural behaviours, such as digging, hiding, running and jumping. As a result of stress, frustration, and boredom, stereotypical behaviours include excessively biting the bars of the cage.
Diseases and Infections
Like battery caged chickens, rabbits are kept in small cages suspended above the floor. This allows faecal matter builds up below them. Given that a 100 doe farm creates roughly 153 kilograms of faeces and urine each day, this exasperates underlying health issues. The build-up of detritus and waste causes high ammonia levels which burn the fragile hocks of the rabbit’s feet and irritate their eyes.
Rabbits are also susceptible to parasitic diseases as well as bacterial and viral infections. Husbandry practices at battery cage 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. Head tilts can frequently be so severe that their eye scrapes along the ground, making it difficult or impossible for the rabbit to move and eat.
Footage from a variety of farms show dead and decomposing rabbits left in cages, and rabbits showing signs of infection and/or disease.
Cervical dislocation (the manual breaking of the neck) is the most common method to kill rabbits on the farm that are sick or injured.
Animal Liberation campaigns for an end to this practice via the banning of rabbit meat farming in the long term and campaigns in the short term for the urgent need to ban battery cages.