Helpful info from ciwf – re rabbit battery farms

Compassion is against the following plans submitted by T&S Nurseries:
• A purpose built rabbit breeding unit within a barn, with the rabbits kept in cages: the size of the barn and UK welfare codes limit the enterprise to 200-250 does (females), plus additional bucks (males) and their young. Due to the size of the barn proposed by T&S Nurseries, the maximum number of rabbits at any one time in this rabbit farm is likely to be in the region of 900-1100.
• Angora rabbits will be bred for the production of high quality fibre – the rabbits will be groomed regularly and the fibres sent to a mill for conversion in to yarn. Grooming can cause great stress to the rabbits.

There are very serious welfare issues affecting rabbits in intensive farming systems. Currently there is no species-specific legislation protecting the welfare of farmed rabbits in the EU and the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 contain only very basic species-specific requirements for rabbits.

Most commercially farmed rabbits are kept in barren wire cages in closed buildings where their natural behaviour is severely restricted. Systems which keep rabbits in cages or hutches without permanent access to additional runs are unacceptable on welfare grounds.

Compassion in World Farming supports systems that give rabbits access to pasture throughout the year, or whenever conditions allow.

The recommended floor space for a cage-housed breeding doe (alone or with a litter up to five weeks of age), as set out in the UK welfare code, is 5600cm2. This is much smaller than the area necessary to allow a rabbit to move around normally by hopping, let alone achieve any meaningful exercise. When the doe has a young litter, at least 800cm2 of this area will be taken up with a nest box, leaving only around 4800cm2 of floor area outside of the nest box, which is insufficient even for the doe to lie in a species-typical resting posture. The lack of opportunity for exercise in caged rabbits can lead to weakened bones.

For the young rabbits who are reared for meat, the recommended floor space per animal in cages, as set out in the UK welfare code, is 700cm2 up to 12 weeks of age and 1800cm2 from 12 weeks of age; this is equivalent to around 14 and six animals per square metre respectively. The total area available to growing rabbits will depend on the group size. Opportunities to express natural behaviour are particularly severely restricted where growing rabbits are housed in small groups. The functional space available to growing rabbits housed in small groups in cages is insufficient to allow many normal activities, such as sequences of hops, running and play behaviour.

The minimum cage height recommended in the UK welfare code is 45cm for all rabbits over 12 weeks of age. This is insufficient to allow rabbits to adopt some normal postures, such as sitting up on the hind legs in a species-typical “lookout” posture, or to make some normal movements, such as jumping.

Whenever housed, rabbits should have access to a rich environment which includes bedding material such as straw, opportunities for burrowing, or pipes they can hide in, and raised platforms. They should have sufficient space to run about and sufficient height to raise themselves to their full height and to jump.

Cages are mainly constructed of wire and sometimes the sides are solid metal sheets. Some farms use floor mats to cover part of the cage floor but usually the floor is made entirely of bare wire. Breeding females and males that are kept for long periods on wire mesh floors commonly develop sores on their footpads and hocks; these sores can cause chronic pain.

The space and environment in which these rabbits are kept can be likened to that experienced by egg-laying hens in barren battery cages – a ban of which is due to come into force across the EU in 2012.

High-fibre forage such as grass or hay should be available at all times. The barren environment and lack of forage feed (eg hay) can lead to rabbits developing abnormal stereotypical behaviours such as excessive grooming and repetitive gnawing or nibbling at the cage. In the worst cases, cannibalism may develop, causing terrible injuries.

Like other animals farmed for meat, rabbits have been selectively bred to grow rapidly and produce more meat than their wild counterparts. This can cause health and welfare issues in the rabbits.

Animals are sentient beings, which means they can feel emotions about things that matter to them. There is now evidence that many animals can learn new skills and some appear to show emotions similar to human empathy. They can also be reduced to a state resembling human depression by chronic stress or confinement.

Compassion believes that rabbits farmed for their meat or fur should be kept in humane farming systems that allow them to live a life free from pain and mental distress. It’s time for us to be banning these cruel systems, not to be introducing them. We will be sure to keep our supporters up to date with any action they can take with regards to objecting to this application, so thank you so much for your interest and support.

If you have any questions, comments or feedback please don’t hesitate to contact myself, Rosie or Tor in Supporter Services and we will be happy to help in any way we can. You can call us on 01483 521 953 (lines are manned 9am – 5pm Monday – Friday) or email Remember you can keep up to date with our work on our website at

Say no to rabbit battery farms

The RWAF is horrified to learn of T&S Nurseries’ rabbit battery farm planning applications and urges Nottinghamshire Council to refuse the applications on the following grounds:

– increase of traffic to the area, and environmental impact of this
– concerns about feaces/waste production and disposal
– loss of agricultural land
– concerns about sustainability –
– whether there is a proven demand for rabbit meat, which generally seems an unpopular choice amongst the majority of consumers
– the physcial and mental suffering of the thousands of rabbits that would be kept in the battery cages until ready for slaughter, and we urge the council to encourage better farming and welfare standards, by refusing these applications.

If any rabbit lovers in the Nottinghamshire area feel strongly about these proposals, they can object on-line
(link to planning application comments pages).

Please note that objections to planning applications will only be considered by the local authority if they meet specific criteria – the following quote from gives a good guideline:

To stand a chance of being taken seriously by the Council any objection or support must be rational, impersonal and directed principally to the planning issues raised by the proposal.

For more information on raising a challenge see the following link:

The current legislation in the UK for meat rabbits is a cage with a floor area of only 0.56m2. This is cruel, in our opinion, and denies the rabbits in these cages the chance to be a rabbit – they can’t run, dig, jump, forage for food or hide. Most other farm animals, other than the unfortunate battery hen, have the chance to behave naturally until they are slaughtered.

Many rabbit owners however may find it a shock to discover that the rabbit hutch where they keep their own pets is smaller than this, and whilst we urge Nottinghamshire council to refuse planning permission, we also urge rabbit owners across the UK to make sure they look after their own bunnies properly by providing the correct environment for them, which should include a large hutch along with a large secure exercise run. For more information about properly caring for pet rabbits please visit our website.

Easy ways to help us help bunnies

RWAF may now be supported if you shop via The Giving Machine

This works in a similar way to Easyfundraising, and of course that’s another way of getting retailers to donate part of the profit from your purchases.

Don’t forget too the other simple ways of supporting RWAF – becoming a member if you aren’t already, using Everyclick as your search engine, Send flowers via Charity Flowers send used stamps to RWAF (address here ) and please…support our work because rabbits do deserve better.

Message from RWAF Vet Advisor

Summit veterinary pharmaceuticals and Nova laboratories are producing Cisapride again in the UK under the cascade. Currently in tablet form only but hopefully in suspension form as well soon.

Whilst many veterinary surgeons will have noticed this at a recent small animal conference (and I mentioned it in a lecture there on Gastrointestinal Stasis), it does not appear widely reported in the veterinary press so far, although this may occur soon. At the same time, metoclopramide has re-emerged in a palatable form, which, whilst not expressly targeted at rabbits, may now be easier to obtain than it used to be.

It would seem that pharmaceutical options for managing and treating GI stasis in rabbits have recently improved, with this news. It is also important to remember all the other treatments such as good nursing, fluid and feeding support, and pain relief, but this is excellent news for rabbits!

Richard Saunders BSc (Hons) BVSc MSB CBiol DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS

A hutch is not enough song

The wonderful Maria Daines, has written and recorded a song for our ‘a hutch is not enough’ campaign. Please listen, and share. We can not thank Maria and the band enough for helping us to raise awareness of the plight that many thousands of pet rabbits face – casual neglect, or as Maria puts it… as ‘garden ghosts’

Love Rabbits? You’ll love the RWAF!

We believe ‘A hutch is not enough. Too many rabbits are kept alone in a small hutch forgotten at the end of the garden . Why not join us and support our campaigns to improve rabbit welfare, and at the same time treat yourself to our fantastic quarterly Rabbiting On Magazine.

Anyone that joins between now and Easter can make the most of our special offer – 15 months membership for the price of 12 – which means one free Rabbiting On!

For more info about Rabbiting On look here:

Please use the code RO15 to get this offer when you join, which you can do on-line:

We are a non profit making registered charity (reg no 1085689) dedicated to improving the lives of rabbits kept as pets.

Got any rabbit owning friends?

The university of Bristol are very grateful to all RWAF members who have kindly
filled in their online survey and are delighted that 251 have done so already. For comparison they are very keen to recruit owners who are not such “rabbit enthusiasts”. So do you have friends and family who have a rabbit and may be willing to help?
Are you a member of a club or a non-rabbit forum that could help us to reach a wide variety of rabbit owners? Or maybe you could even post the survey link on your facebook page. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
And if they fill in the survey they could even win £100!

Replies are needed by the end of April please.

The RWAF are hoping to make 2011 the year for the rabbit.

One of our key activities is taking part in Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) in May with other major welfare organisations such as RSPCA, PDSA, Blue Cross and the main sponsor Burgess Pet Care. RAW will be in a pet shop or Vet near you very soon, and will be raising the profile of pet rabbits and their welfare needs, with this year’s focus being on behaviour. Rabbits have some fascinating natural behaviours but often are unable to display these as pets due to inadequate accommodation and living alone. Please look at the RAW website for more information.

As well as continuing with our successful ‘A Hutch is Not Enough’ campaign, we also have a series of press releases and awareness campaigns in the pipeline over the coming months – all aimed at dispelling the myth that rabbits can live happily alone in a hutch. We have started with our Wedding Vows press release to try and ‘bunny-back’ onto the media interest in the forthcoming royal wedding. We will keep you informed of our campaigns and progress via our website, facebook and news blog so please keep an eye out – and if you haven’t joined or registered with our facebook group then please do sign up!!/pages/The-Rabbit-Welfare-Association-and-Fund/191449507147?sk=wall&filter=2

We believe that ‘A Hutch is Not Enough’ and that every pet rabbit deserves to live in an area that permanently allows them to display their natural behaviours such as running, digging, jumping, foraging, and grooming another rabbit. A hutch is a shelter and should only be used as part of a larger living area. Rabbits should be neutered and vaccinated and have the companionship of another neutered rabbit, and a good quality diet with hay or forage provided for health and emotional enrichment reasons. We will work to improve the lives of rabbits in the UK by spreading the messages above, and aim to raise the status of the pet rabbit to that of the pet cat and dog.

In 2011 the RWAF have set the following core objectives:

– To raise the profile of the pet rabbits and their welfare needs by educating owners and potential owners alike, and by working with the retail industry to improve standards.

– To raise awareness that rabbits are not cheap and easy children’s pets and to discourage people from taking on rabbits if they are unlikely to be responsible owners.

– To continue to campaign, including our ‘A Hutch is Not Enough’ campaign, which is gaining support and is already making a difference – with retailers withdrawing tiny 3ft hutches from sale and including 6ft and larger hutches in their range – and our ‘Toys Aren’t Us’ message which reminds potential owners that rabbits, despite their cute and fluffy looks, are not toys that can be discarded after a few months.

– To increase membership of the RWA – because more members means a bigger voice to shout with.

– To support the vital work of rescue shelters wherever we can.

Every activity we undertake this year will be in line with our core objectives.

We will be clear and transparent with our members about our activities.
We will focus on a positive behaviour change for owners and retailers.
We will work with other like minded organisations to further achieve our common goals.
We will be pragmatic – we will work with organisations with whom we may not be like minded, but where there is a necessity for a dialogue in order to impart our values and improve standards to benefit pet rabbits.
We will not compromise our beliefs
We will not accept flimsy excuses from retailers; we will name and shame those who ignore our messages and put profit before welfare.
We accept sponsorship but will never compromise our agenda – to improve the lives of pet rabbits – to appease a sponsor.

Our over arching mission is to improve the lives of rabbits kept as pets in the UK.

So if you love rabbits and want to help us help them – please join.
You will get our fantastic magazine ‘Rabbiting On’ every quarter, and you will be helping us to continue our work.