Bunny meat: The Hidden Truth
This is Geoffrey. Geoffrey was rescued from a rabbit meat farm. He was skinny and scared. It took him three days to have the confidence to come out of the cage he was rescued in. He had never stepped on grass before. There is no difference between rabbits you eat and those companion rabbits whom we have all grown up with and learned to love.
Rabbits in Australia are raised for meat in crowded wire cages.
They are intensively farmed in unsanitary conditions with next to no mobility, lack of veterinary care, high stress, confinement and severe health conditions.
They live up to a maximum of 12 weeks, where they are then killed onsite or shipped to slaughterhouses in trucks.
Australia’s factory farmed rabbit industry was established in 1996 subsequent to the release of the calici virus, which was aimed at controlling the wild rabbit population. The government removed bans on industrialised rabbit farms to establish the factory farmed rabbit industries.
In 1999, The Crusader project was born. It was a CSIRO project funded by the CSIRO Livestock industries and the (Rural Industries research and development corporation) RIRDC.
Crusader became the breeding program for the meat rabbit industry. Crusader was setup to improve rabbit genetic breeding traits which would relate to enterprise profitability such as faster growth, disease resistance, and shorter weaning times. Their main goals were to:
Deliver “superior” breeding stock to the meat industry. They provided farmers with rabbits from the research lab in Armidale. This breeding facility was used to accommodate 120 does and 30 bucks with the main aim of genetic selection. Rabbits were sent to slaughter at 12-13 weeks of age.
Currently, there are rabbit farms in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia
The Department of primary industries guidelines on farming meat rabbits in Australia is to confine them to cages.
The DPI recommends doe productivity to be 7 litters per year with four to five rabbits per litter. The doe is culled after weaning 7 litters. The DPI also recommend that with good management, the doe could be made to produce up to 40 litters.
The age for slaughter is set between 10-12 weeks depending on the breed and the maximum growth. Although many die beforehand from stress and illnesses brought about from extreme confinement.
Australian Standard for rabbit slaughter recommends Feed should be withheld from rabbits 24 hours before slaughter.
The current standard for stunning rabbits include;
(1) Cervical dislocation, which involves separation of the skull and the brain from the spinal cord by a pressure blow to the skull. Research shows 13 seconds of consciousness after the dislocation.
(2) Suspension by the hind legs, followed by a heavy, sharp blow to the back of the skull with a metal pipe. If no implement is available, it is recommended that the rabbit is picked up by the hind legs and swung so that the back of his head hits a hard surface such as a rock or post.
(3) Decapitation using a guillotine or sharp blade.
(4) ‘Bleeding out’ by cutting the major blood vessels in the neck while suspended upside down by their paws.
There are no enforceable standards for husbandry or slaughter. All codes are of minimum welfare and are a guide only.
You can help rabbits like Geoffrey by educating the public on what goes on in this industry
Tell them to stop killing our pets.
Download our leaflet (A4 double sided) (pdf) and sample letter (word document) and distribute it to restaurants, cafes and even butchers