Creating better tomorrows for all pet rabbits

Campaign Update Summer 2021

Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.


In the run-up to Easter 2021, we advertised on the Pets4Homes platform.

Rabbiting On readers will know how concerned we are about online rabbit sales, but in order to reach as many owners as possible, we felt it important to target this market. Millions of people use platforms like these, and may not come to our website for advice, so we are taking the advice to them.

We supplied RWAF adverts for users of the website and wrote two rabbit care articles hosted on Pet4Homes. These had over a thousand views in the first few weeks, and there was an increase in traffic to our website as a result.

The Pets4Homes site carried banners advertising our ‘A hutch is not enough’ petition, and during the time it was up, we gained a whopping 4000 extra signatures, taking us almost to 60,000!

Planning applications for rabbit meat farms

Rutland, Amersham and Cornwall all saw applications for new rabbit meat farms from a company with several farms across the UK. Although many of us are appalled by these applications, and there was huge support for the petitions that were launched to oppose them, the only way to effectively block applications like this is to raise objections not on welfare grounds but in line with planning policy.

Applications that do not meet local or national planning policy frameworks are likely to be rejected, so we know that in order to have the best chance of stopping the applications, we need to lodge objections based on these planning policies. To do this, we employed the services of a specialist planning consultant, who allowed us to successfully block an application from the same company when they wanted to build a farm in Lincolnshire some years back. Because our charitable remit covers pet rabbits and not rabbits that are farmed for meat, we could not use the charity’s money and had to put a call out to raise funds for this specific purpose. What a fantastic bunch of supporters you all are! We raised what we needed in under 24 hours, and your support meant we could lodge solid objections to all three applications.

As we go to press, the application in Cornwall has been refused, and we are waiting to hear about the other two. Fingers crossed on these, and we will update you next time

Rabbits on TV

Rabbits are always in the spotlight at Easter, and some TV features are better than others. This year we have dealt with the debacle of the rabbits on the Alan Titchmarch show, as well as the terribly misjudged ‘Kitkat Big Bunny Hutch’. As always, in response to our concerns, the usual soundbite of ‘welfare is a priority’ was trotted out, but we were not convinced. Even if the welfare of the on-set rabbits has been assured, the overall message given to viewers is the problem.

If you do see anything in the media where you think that the welfare of rabbits has been compromised, then please do bring it to our attention so we can respond, but it helps enormously if people raise their concerns individually too. It’s basically a numbers game, so please make your voice heard. We’ve compiled a list of common areas where we raise objections in these cases, which might help you when you’re raising your own complaints.

  1. Encouraging impulse purchases:

Rabbits are often shown as easy-to-care-for animals, focusing on their “cute” behaviours and appearance without explaining the challenges of keeping them correctly and meeting all their welfare needs throughout their lives. It’s an age-old problem for rabbits that owners take them on as pets without understanding the reality of meeting their needs. Rabbits can live for up to 10-12 years of age, cost approximately £11,000 to care for over their lives, and must be kept in social pairs or groups. They are not easy children’s pets.

  1. Easter:

The Easter bunny connection means that rabbits get a lot of press at Easter, but sadly, rabbits are commonly bought on impulse. This means that TV shows have even more responsibility to show everything that’s involved

  1. The ‘H’ word:

These shows often use the word “hutch” repeatedly. This implies that it’s okay to keep rabbits in hutches, and it’s often compounded by the fact that no exercise space is shown. Rabbits need as much space as possible, whether they are kept indoors or out. Permanent access to a secure enclosure of 3m x 2m x 1m is the minimum for two average-sized rabbits.

  1. Bad diet:

Rabbits on TV are often shown with carrots (which are high in starch), and treats (which are high in sugar), and sometimes, there is a complete absence of grass or hay. This is a serious misrepresentation of a healthy rabbit diet. Even if the rabbits on set are fed correctly when they are not on camera, the problem is the message it sends to viewers.

  1. Poor condition:

It is often the case that rabbits that are supplied to TV shows are not in an acceptable condition. They are often obese, have long nails, are unneutered, and there are signs of soiling. This is bad for the rabbits in question and, again, does not send a good message to viewers.

  1. Stress:

Rabbits are prey animals and find both the travelling and the time in the studio extremely stressful. The stress is often visible through their rapid breathing and anxious behaviour, such as head/ear position and body stance.

  1. Companionship:

The message around the importance of companionship and neutering given by TV shows can often be inadequate and misleading.

  1. Handling:

Because they are a prey species, Rabbits do not like being picked up, but whenever they are on TV, the presenters can’t seem to keep their hands off them! A rabbit’s instinct when it has been picked up is that it has been caught by a predator, which is terrifying and made worse by a stressful, unfamiliar environment. Of course, owners have to pick their rabbits up for health checks, vet visits, etc., but we advise on good handling techniques. We rarely see good techniques shown on TV.

On the bright side, we were pleased to be asked for our input for the feature on Channel 4’s ‘Steph’s Packed Lunch’. They gave some really great advice and showed positive welfare messages because they did their homework and researched properly.

Rabbit Welfare & Ethics Stakeholder Day

5th June 2021 – Via The Webinar Vet

Not surprisingly, we have decided to do our conference online this year, and we are really excited to be working with the lovely people at The Webinar Vet.

This is something a bit different, and everyone is welcome – you can book online via our website, where there is a link on the home page, or direct through The Webinar Vet.

Rabbits are recognised as one of the most neglected pets in the UK. We are all stakeholders and can do something to improve their welfare. You are invited to a Rabbit Welfare & Ethics Day.

The aim of the day is to highlight some of the many issues facing pet rabbits today and then discuss what we can all do to improve their welfare and hopefully come up with some actions.

The programme for the day will consist of the following:

9.00 – 9.30IntroductionDr Emma Milne
9.30 – 10.00Brachycephaly: prevalence, consequences, welfare impact. What can be done?Dr Richard Saunders
10.00 – 10.30What is the ideal rabbit diet?Dr Nadene Stapleton
10.30 – 11.00Coffee
11.00 – 11.30Showing and show jumping. Is it ethical?Dr Emma Milne
11.30 – 12.00‘There’s no place like home’. Rabbit housing in the 21st centuryDr Jane Tyson
12.00 – 12.30The rise of ‘Rabbit Friendly’ practices, how can we ensure that the rabbit’s needs at home are met?Anna Ewers Clark, PDSA
12.30 – 13.00Rabbit Welfare Strategy and Best Practice Guidelines RSCPA and RWAF
13.00 – 14.00Lunch
14.00 – 14.30Prioritising welfare needs, identified by research at Bristol University/RSPCADr Nicola Rooney
14.30 – 15.00“Morbidity and mortality of domestic rabbits under primary veterinary care in England” Why are we failing them and what can be done?Dr Dan O’Neill
15.00 – 15.30“What Makes a rabbit cute? Preference for rabbit faces differs according to skull morphology and demographic factors” How can we
change this?
Dr Naomi Harvey
15.30 – 15.45Coffee
15.45 – 16.15Exploring other extreme anatomical features and the welfare impact for the rabbitDr Emma Milne
16.15 – 17.00Discussion and action planningAll
17.00 – 17.30Summary and closeDr Emma Milne

Prices: £80 early bird (until 1 May) | £100 full price | £50 for students.
Please note the timetable is subject to change without prior notice.

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