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polish-rabbitfarm-rowofcagesToday, Members of the European Parliament discussed the AGRI-draft report about minimum standards for the protection of farm rabbits which has been drafted by Stefan Eck MEP (GUE/NGL, DE).

Rabbits are, in numbers, the second most farmed livestock species in the European Union with over 330 million slaughtered each year. There is a pressing need for better regulation as rabbits are often kept under unacceptable breeding and farming conditions.

Only a few Member States have introduced specific legislation for the keeping, breeding and fattening of rabbits. Among these are Austria, Belgium and Germany. However 90 % of rabbits are kept in Member States that have only voluntary schemes.

The AGRI-initiative report, is the first at EU level to deal with this issue and aims to start a broad discussion about rabbit farming in the EU and the methods for the keeping of these animals, as well as to encourage the European Commission to present an ambitious draft legislative proposal. The proposal should allow to avoid serious animal welfare abuses in the keeping, breeding, husbandry, transportation and slaughtering of farm rabbits.

The MEPs present agreed that it is necessary to phase out cages in rabbit farming, and to make the conversion to alternative methods of rabbit farming such as park systems that provide for sufficient space with comfortable flooring and where rabbits can be kept in groups. Farmers making this conversion should be supported under the rural development programs of the CAP.

Housing systems for rabbits should have platforms or similar elevated terrain and sufficient enrichment materials. Furthermore, transport times should be as limited as possible, due to the sensitivity of the species. Transport crates should allow for normal posturing. Finally, rabbits should be fully stunned before slaughter, ensuring they undergo no suffering, pain or stress. Slaughter should be carried out without risk of the stunned animal regaining consciousness.

Stefan Eck MEP stressed ”EU legislation for rabbits would make sure to create a level playing field and would meet the increasing demand from consumers for better animal welfare in farming. Same standards should also apply to imported rabbit products.

Due to species-specific diseases and the high mortality rate inherent to rabbit farming, widespread routine administration of antibiotics has become a necessity. This has exacerbated the problems of increasing antimicrobial resistance. Rabbit farming in its current form is thus also creating a public health problem. I strongly believe that a transition from cage farming to pen systems would reduce the need to use antibiotics and thereby reduce public health risks. To conclude, the goal of this own-initiative-report consists of four pillars: 1. higher animal welfare standards for farm rabbits; 2. protection of the sector; 3. consumer protection and food safety; 4. protection of the EU market/ harmonisation.”

Olga Kikou, European Affairs Manager for Compassion in World Farming – CIWF, referred to NGO investigations in EU rabbit farms which revealed appalling conditions and immense animal suffering. She presented alternative systems and pointed out: “Current cage systems fail to meet the needs of the rabbits. The future of the rabbit farming sector lies in the end of the use of cages and the transition to higher welfare alternatives which will effectively address the serious problems that exist in the industry. This can only be achieved by legislation that will bring rabbit farming out of the “Cage Age” and into the 21st century”.

For further information please contact Olga Kikou: olga.kikou@ciwf.org, +32 2 7091330

 

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