Rabbits are affectionate, social animals that enjoy the company of other rabbits. They express joy through ‘binkys’ where they run, jump into the air, twist their body and flick their feet. Rabbits also have strong hind limbs which allow them to leap great distances. They can jump up to one metre high and three metres long.
Within the battery cage though, these natural behaviours are denied.
Like battery caged chickens, meat rabbits are kept in small cages suspended above the floor where faecal matter builds up below them. A 100 doe farm creates roughly 153kgs of faeces plus urine each day (1).This causes high ammonia levels which burn the fragile hocks of the rabbit’s feet and irritate their eyes. Imagine the smell and the ammonia build up these animals are exposed to.
Cages are often constructed with wire mesh flooring which restricts thermoregulation and causes foot and hock injuries as well as pododermatitis to rabbit feet (2). The space they are provided is roughly 0.07m2 per rabbit inside the cage. This is only slightly bigger than an A4 piece of paper (3). There is no stimulation inside the cages and no outside access.
The cages are also of insufficient height. Rabbits require 70cm per hop (4). Jumping is nearly impossible within the barren cages provided. They struggle to stand with ears erect and are deprived of expressing natural behaviours such as digging and hiding (4).
Meat rabbits are killed at roughly 12 weeks of age. Females kept for breeding can be forced to live in these conditions for 56 weeks while they produce 7 litters (1). Despite their need to socialise, bucks (male breeder rabbits) are kept in total isolation (3).
Rabbits are susceptible to parasitic diseases as well as bacterial and viral infections (1). Husbandry practices at battery caged facilities create inviting atmospheres for these health problems. Head tilt (wry neck), where the head tilts to one side, is a common problem with a variety of causes including middle ear infections, parasitic infections, brain tumours or head trauma (5). Head tilts can frequently be so sever their eye is scraped along the ground and the rabbit has problems moving and feeding.
Cervical dislocation is the most common method to kill rabbits on the farm that are sick or injured (3).