Better for lab rabbits, but not back yard bunnies

The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF), the largest charity with the sole aim of improving the lives of pet rabbits in the UK, is delighted by the EU ban on animal testing of cosmetics. The rabbit is closely linked to animal testing, even to the point of being the symbol used on cosmetics packaging, so the charity welcomes this historic move with open arms. But the RWAF is keen to stress that while society is reducing cruelty to animals in some areas, thousands of pet rabbits are still suffering, not only because of lack of knowledge on the part of the owners but also because there is a lack of legislation to protect this much misunderstood pet. RWAF Vet Expert Advisor Richard Saunders said: “Unbelievably, we have more legislation to protect lab rabbits than for pet rabbits. For example, many rabbit hutches are for sale below the legal requirement for lab rabbits. Rabbits are not battery animals. But if a rabbit is confined to a hutch of less than 4ft x 2ft then that’s how they’re being kept … in worse conditions than are allowed for lab rabbits.” He continued: “The problem rabbits face is that most are kept, as the Victorians kept them, for food – in a hutch for easy access. We are making great steps in some areas of animal welfare but somehow it’s still seen as okay to keep an animal that needs to run, jump and dig confined to a hutch, and there’s very little protection through the law.” The RWAF asks people not to buy a rabbit this Easter and only to take on rabbits if they have looked into everything that’s involved. And the RWAF’s message to existing owners is simple: find out how you can improve your rabbits’ lives by checking out the RWAF website.