Calls made to improve rabbit farming methods

Alternative methods have been called upon to phase out conventional battery cages for farming rabbits. 

According to MEPs, rabbit producers within the European Union should be practicing methods that provide healthier and affordable solutions, such as park or pen farming systems.

They said that improving the welfare of the animals will subsequently have beneficial impacts on human health. “By raising the standards and living conditions of the rabbits, the spread of disease will be halted. In turn, this will reduce the need for the intensive use of antibiotics that could end up in the human food chain.”

This news comes after the Agriculture Committee voted in a resolution on Wednesday, which was hailed a positive step forward.

“The mere fact that after so many years we are finally talking about minimum standards for the protection of rabbits is a success,” said rapporteur Stefan Eck.

Although “progress in the right direction has been made, it is still necessary for EU-binding rules to be implanted”, said Eck. “The fight for rabbit-specific EU legislation will continue.”

Whilst consumption of rabbit meat is on the decrease due to a fall in consumer demand, the EU is still the world’s largest rabbit producers. However, this still accounts to less than 1% of the EU’s final livestock production.

To make sure that rabbit farms are managed and monitored appropriately, MEPs are asking for EU member states to gradually phase out the use of battery cages and to promote production areas that would allow for disease-prevention and targeted.

In an effort to achieve this, more research and work should be done by the EU Commission and member states to encourage the best housing systems to improve the welfare of different types of rabbits. MEPs do, however, recognise that it is important in finding a balance between animal welfare, the financial situations of farmers and the affordability of rabbit meat for consumers.

As a result, MEPs have said that the EU Commission should be providing EU-wide guidelines and recommendations on farmed rabbits’ health, welfare and housing whilst rabbit imports from countries outside of the Union should meet the welfare standards practiced from within the EU.

The Commission has been told by MEPs that it should do more in helping promote the consumption of rabbit meat, with specific support being requested to soften the impact of new compulsory measures. It has been suggested that EU rural development funding be used to help farmers that opt for higher-welfare alternatives.

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