Rabbits are bright, curious and sensitive animals that love to dig in the cool sand, play with their friends and jump around in the grass. In the meat industry, however, they cannot meet these natural needs.
The keeping, rearing and killing of rabbits in the meat industry was not regulated in detail for a long time. There have only been minimum legal requirements since 2014 – but similar to the requirements for pig and chicken rearing, these provisions do not allow the rabbits to live in a species-appropriate manner.
There is also another major problem in rabbit fattening: private breeders.
Due to the widespread hobby keeping of rabbits, it is hardly possible to check whether the minimum requirements are being violated.
How many rabbits are bred and fattened in Germany for their meat has not yet been officially recorded.
However, it is estimated that there are tens of thousands of animals.
Rabbit meat: husbandry, production, laws and numbers
Before August 11, 2014, there were only non-binding guidelines that were determined by the breeding and rabbit keepers’ associations themselves.
Since then, legal minimum requirements have been set for keeping rabbits, but they are by no means sufficient to enable the rabbits to lead a species-appropriate life.
Even keeping them in cages with grid floors is still allowed. At the end of a life full of privation, the rabbits die in the slaughterhouse.
Production and sales figures can hardly be recorded
In contrast to meat from other animal species, rabbit meat (around 34 percent) is largely produced as a hobby and offered through direct sales.
This makes it difficult to regularly collect current data on kept and killed animals.
The main producing countries of the EU are Spain, France and Italy.
But in Germany too, it is estimated that around 15 million rabbits are killed every year for their meat in “backyard slaughterhouses” – less than 25 percent of rabbit meat is produced in industrial fattening operations.
China is the world’s largest producer of rabbit meat and the main supplier of rabbit meat to the EU.
Overall, however, EU imports only make up a small percentage of the rabbit meat traded.
Facts about breeding and fattening: Millions of rabbits are killed every year in Germany
According to the federal government in 2010, over 41,000 tons of rabbit meat are consumed in Germany – this corresponds to around 30 million rabbits.
The majority of it, around 33,000 tons, is produced in Germany. The indication in tons once again makes it clear: The animals do not count as individuals, but are degraded to a factor of production.
As in pig farming, a distinction is made between breeding and fattening rabbits. While female rabbits have to give birth to as many young as possible in breeding, rabbits in fattening should put on a lot of meat as quickly as possible.
Commercial rabbit meat production is largely standardized in the EU.
The following applies to rabbits in German fattening and breeding:
1)The entire “production cycle” lasts up to 80 days. In contrast, when rabbits are kept as animal roommates, they can live up to 14 years. Even wild rabbits can reach an age of up to 9 years in nature.
2)The rabbits are usually weaned in around 32 days. However, young rabbits need contact with adult animals for up to three months in order to learn natural social behavior from them.
3)Artificial insemination is the norm. Female rabbits are re-inseminated ten days after their babies are born. This means that they are pregnant around 8.5 times a year and give birth to seven to eight children each time, who are also used in fattening and breeding.
The average life expectancy of a female rabbit in breeding is 11 months – they do not even come close to their natural life expectancy of several years.
Rabbits suffer from housing conditions in breeding and fattening
Despite the statutory minimum requirements, rabbits can still be caged.
By law, rabbits are only 0.6 square meters available for breeding and only 0.3 square meters for fattening – so not even 2.5 or 1.5 A4 pages per animal.
Only retreat and meager employment opportunities are stipulated, but these are far too small and can never be used by all animals at the same time.
Due to chronic boredom and lack of space, the animals often injure each other or themselves.
Their musculoskeletal system atrophies, they are usually kept on lattice floors for their entire life – painfully inflamed paws, curvature of the spine and joint problems are the result.
Thousands of animals sit in large halls, cage by cage – a practice that is as cruel as keeping chickens in cages.
Due to the large amount of waste under the cages, the air is contaminated with ammonia and of very poor quality.
As a result, many rabbits suffer from respiratory diseases and eye infections.
In such conditions, the active animals have no opportunity to pursue their natural needs – this includes long jumps, deep digging and the extensive search for healthy food.
Even in private households, rabbits usually suffer from poor living conditions and sit alone in tiny, dirty wooden cages – row after row.
Therefore, rabbit meat offered as “regional” is associated with great animal suffering, and consumers should not be fooled by such advertising slogans.
In breeding, a female rabbit is killed in the slaughterhouse after about a year – unless she dies before that.
After this time she is either sick or the number of her offspring diminishes so that she is replaced for profit reasons.
During one year of breeding, she continuously gives birth to children, as her natural cycle of birth, determined by the seasons, is disturbed by artificial light programs.
In the fattening area, the rabbits are killed even earlier, namely when they are three to four months old.
In nature, they are not even fully grown at this point.
At the time of their killing, the young rabbits already weighed three, sometimes even more than four kilograms.
The reasons for this are chronic lack of exercise, rapid meat set-up due to breeding and unsuitable food for fattening.
These disease-causing conditions put an enormous strain on the animals, so that the mortality rates are sometimes as high as 40 percent – even in organic farms.
Excruciating transportation and cruel methods of killing
Transporting animals from commercial operations to the slaughterhouse is also a cruel practice.
The rabbits are put in boxes and transported under great stress.
During the journey, and often before and after, the animals are often not given any food.
This is a great burden for rabbits, whose digestion depends on continuous food intake, which can even lead to death.
A certain percentage of animals that die painfully even before being killed in the slaughterhouse is factored in from the outset.
The laws in force do not protect vertebrates from animal cruelty and agonizing death, but merely stipulate that they must be anesthetized using painful methods before the fatal blood withdrawal.
Three different methods are permitted for rabbits, each of which is cruel in its own way:
In small slaughterhouses or in so-called house slaughtering, rabbits can still be “stunned” with a hard hit on the head.
The animals often suffer head injuries or a concussion – but they experience the later cut through the throat when they are conscious.
In large slaughterhouses, the sensitive animals are anesthetized with electricity or with a bolt shot in the brain – the rate of incorrect stunning is also high with these methods.
In addition, the restraint means enormous stress for the animals.
Rabbit meat with the organic seal is also responsible for animal suffering
Organic seals may give consumers a better conscience, but they do not guarantee rabbit meat that is free of suffering – because there is no such thing as an animal that is humanely or humanely killed.
The production of meat, milk, eggs and other animal products must always be profitable for the farms – and that always means massive suffering for the animals.
Even if the keeping in organic farms may be marginally better, rabbit meat with the organic seal also comes from animals that are only regarded as goods, kept as profitable as possible and killed after a short and usually painful life.
Rabbits are sensitive animals and very special and demanding in terms of keeping and nutrition.
As with all animals, it is impossible to keep rabbits in a species-appropriate and economical manner.
So whoever buys rabbit meat is in any case responsible for the fact that an animal suffered an excruciating attitude and died a painful death.
And I mean…Videos show animals with purulent wounds and halved ears.
The grid floor cuts into the paws.
Infections go untreated.
Some rabbits eat their offspring.
Live baby rabbits end up in the garbage can.
The Livestock Keeping Ordinance, which came into force in 2014, is intended to prevent agony in German fattening.
But the transition periods are dramatically long
And the controls ridiculously sparse.
Meat producers, not rabbits, are of great interest for the meat loby.
That means: Even in Germany, narrow cages with grid floors that cut into the paws of the animals are still part of everyday life.
We had hoped for a Europe-wide regulation, the non-party MEP Stefan Eck had initiated a campaign against the torture of rabbits.
But the EU Commission has no interest in a Europe-wide ban because, as is known, the EU Commission does not generally give a shit for the wellfare of farm animals.
Therefore: The decisive lever is not the politician, but the customers in the supermarket.
Because as long as meat is produced, there will be pictures of suffering rabbits, and suffering animals in general.
My best regards to all, Venus