The Monaco House Rabbit Sanctuary

Cheryl Kucsera
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 research.

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?