No Animal Left Behind: why do farmed rabbits need specific laws to protect their welfare?


No Animal Left Behind: why do farmed rabbits need specific laws to protect their welfare?

3 April 2023

Across Europe, millions of caged rabbits are living in a real-life horror story. Crammed into tiny prisons with their peers - with no access to things to interact with and nowhere to exercise, play, and rest - their daily lives are filled with boredom, frustration and physical and mental suffering. The European Commission has the power to change that when revising the animal welfare legislation this year, by including specific laws for rabbits that address their needs.

Rabbits are fascinating, complex animals. Curious and social by nature, they love living in groups and socialising with others - but like any sentient being, it’s also important to them to be able to rest and spend time alone. What’s more, their teeth are always growing, so it’s important for rabbits to always have something to chew on.

Unfortunately, these essential needs are far from met in Europe’s current farming systems. Rather than having the space and opportunities to truly be themselves, rabbits are forced into tiny cages - many of which are no bigger than an A4 piece of paper - and, as our recent exposé revealed, forced to spend their days in the most miserable conditions.

Rabbits in cages experience a wealth of problems - some of which are deadly

These poor beings:

  • Are frequently stressed and frustrated, which can lead to injuries and health issues. In turn, a higher number of antibiotics are often used on factory farmed rabbits, driving the antimicrobial crisis
  • Are unable to move their bodies properly - many can’t even stand up or stretch out. This is mentally and physically distressing, and can cause painful problems such as frail bones
  • Struggle psychologically - high cortisol and low dopamine/serotonin levels are commonly seen in factory farmed rabbits, which are major indicators of poor mental health
  • Often suffer from digestive disorders due to poor hygiene - which can cause high mortality rates with kittens (baby rabbits) in particular
  • Can’t look after themselves or follow their instincts - with no materials to chew on, rabbits in cages can’t do anything about their ever-growing teeth, resulting in even more pain and difficulty eating.

Learn more about these issues on pages 17 - 19 of our new exposé report.

Europe’s farmed rabbits don’t have to live this way

Many of the problems farmed rabbits face are enabled by existing loopholes and oversights in the European Commission’s animal welfare legislation. What’s more, there are no existing laws that address the welfare of farmed rabbits specifically - which they desperately need. 

The European Commission has the power to change all of this when they revise the animal welfare legislation later this year, by including strong, precise, and  targeted rules for rabbit welfare that take into account their unique natures. 

Farmed rabbits have not been domesticated for as long as other farmed species, and still exhibit the same behaviours and instincts as seen in their wild counterparts. Life in a cage is an unimaginable struggle for them, and having already promised to End The Cage Age following a successful ECI, the European Commission must now consider how to phase out cages for these dynamic beings in a swift and effective manner. We’ve already done a lot of the groundwork by compiling case studies, scientific evidence, and data from across the EU that explores this transition in our new report.

Rabbits deserve better. They need their freedom and space, along with access to good nutrition, clean water, and enrichment materials with which they can play and look after themselves properly. There is no substitute for these basic needs.

We’re trying to change history for farm animals this year through phase two of the No Animal Left Behind campaign. Find out more.