More space to improve the welfare of breeding rabbits
Flemish minister of animal welfare, Ben Weyts, decided to ensure that breeding rabbits are housed in an environment that is more natural and has double the space. Currently, only rabbits bred for meat must be housed in ‘enriched parks’. The new minimum standards for housing breeding rabbits have been approved after discussions with, among others, GAIA, the Farmer’s Association and the Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food Research (ILVO).
There are still 15 large rabbit farms in Flanders. These house about five hundred thousand rabbits. The farms breed rabbits that are slaughtered for their meat when they are about three months old. Breeding rabbits are also housed in the farms and are kept longer to breed other rabbits for their meat. By 2025, all breeding rabbits in professional farms must be relocated to ‘enriched parks’ that are more spacious and have tunnels and gnawing material. This has now been set out in the new minimum standards. “We are taking the lead in Europe here,” said Weyts. “Nowhere else will breeding rabbits be better protected than in Flanders.” Ann De Greef, director of GAIA, said, “these new standards are good news, although, of course, we would prefer these to go into effect sooner.”
The surface area in these enriched parks is up to twice the size of current housing. A female breeding rabbit that has about 3,000 cm² today will have a minimum surface area of 6,000 cm² in the future.
Ann De Greef emphasised: “We continue to advocate for improvements in the living conditions of rabbits. Although it would be even better if people didn’t eat rabbits. Given the economic context, changes that benefit animal welfare always take time. Nevertheless, we are on the right track. ”