Educator, The Monaco House Rabbit Sanctuary
Having shared my life and home with rabbits for many years, now, I have
come to appreciate their behaviors and individual personalities. As
guardian to my rabbit companions, I feel it is my responsibility and duty
to raise awareness about the suffering rabbits typically endure in the
rabbit breeding and raising process.
Rabbits, among the most exploited of animals, are viewed by breeders as
livestock and property, not companions. The majority of them are raised
for meat and/or fur. Many are raised for exhibition, while many others
are raised to be used in animal research. The number of rabbits who end
up as companion animals is small in comparison to the number raised for
these other "uses." Many people don't realize that companion rabbits are
of the same breeds that are exploited for meat, fur, exhibition and
The operation in which rabbits are raised is called a rabbitry. Most
people outside of the rabbit breeding community have never seen a rabbitry.
The rabbitry closely resembles a battery hen operation, with row after row
of wire cages, often stacked. The rabbits spend their entire lives on
wire bottom cages, which often cause sores on their feet and possibly
broken toes from getting caught in the wire.
Except for mother rabbits with babies, each rabbit lives singly, in its
own small, wire cage. Female rabbits are bred repeatedly. When they are
no longer productive enough to suit the breeder's standards, they will be
culled from the rabbitry. The fate of many of the rabbits culled from the
rabbitry will be slaughter (for human consumption); others may be sold as
food for reptiles or other animals.
Before and during the Easter season, consumer interest in baby bunnies is
at its peak. In order to exploit this demand, many rabbit breeders will
schedule the breeding of their rabbits so that extra litters of baby
bunnies will be available at this time.
In pet store terms, baby bunnies don't have a long "shelf life." This is
because they grow so very quickly. Therefore, in order to meet pet
stores' desires for the "cutest" baby bunnies, some breeders may supply
bunnies who are too young (under 8 weeks of age). I was told of one
breeder/petmiller who supplied baby bunnies to local pet stores. Every
few weeks, when he would drop off a new "shipment" of baby bunnies, he
would pick up any that hadn't sold from his previous shipment. According
to him, if the bunnies hadn't been purchased at that point, they never
would be. So, he took them back to his home where they ended up in his
freezer. He said it was more "humane" for them to end up on his plate
than to languish in a cage in the pet store!
Rabbit mills exist, but the conditions and quality of life that exist in
"reputable" rabbitries aren't very rabbit friendly, either, since life in
the rabbitry cruelly deprives rabbits of the opportunity to live according
to their natures. Domestic rabbits are descendants of wild European
rabbits, highly sociable animals who live in colonies with a sophisticated
social hierarchy. Domestic rabbits still retain the social nature of
their wild cousins, but life in the rabbitry denies them any opportunity
to form bonds with other rabbits, or to engage in behaviors such as mutual
grooming or playing. With European rabbits, the father rabbit takes a
very active role in raising and nurturing the babies, but this, too, is
denied domestic rabbits since the only contact the parent rabbits have is
when they are put together to mate. Regardless of the total number of
rabbits in the rabbitry, it is a very sad, lonely, boring and stressful
existence for its inhabitants.
There is no shortage of homeless rabbits! An uncountable number of
rabbits are euthanized in animal shelters each year.
With so many deserving rabbits being destroyed, how can anyone justify
purchasing a rabbit from a breeder or a pet shop? And as long as
perfectly healthy and wonderful animals are being destroyed in shelters,
how can anyone justify bringing another litter into this world?