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Rabbits will be kept in wire cages in windowless barns

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Battery rabbit farm proposals could see return of fur farming to UK

Tom Levitt

5th May, 2011

Undercover footage of Portuguese rabbit farms shows the grim reality of intensive factory-style rabbit farming, which may now make a comeback in the UK

Plans to build half a dozen rabbit farms across the UK could see an increase in intensive caged rabbit and fur farming in the UK.

A Lincolnshire-based developer has reportedly lodged planning applications to rear up to 1,000 rabbits at a time in caged barn systems at six sites across the UK. He says 3,000 tonnes of rabbit meat is eaten in the UK every year, with almost all of it imported. One other company supplying rabbit meat is Woldsway Food Limited, based in Lincolnshire.

Philip Kerry of Lincolnshire-based T&S Nurseries, told the guardian that he would be breeding some rabbits for meat and also some angora rabbits (where the animals are sheared not killed) for fur.

Although keeping animals ‘soley or primarily’ for killing for their fur is illegal in the UK, fur can still be sold as a by-product of meat production or from animals not killed.

However, as footage obtained by Ecostorm - the agency behind the Ecologist Film Unit - on behalf of Portuguese pressure group ANIMAL in 2006 shows, conditions on caged rabbit farms are poor.

Investigators uncovered evidence showing that although many rabbits were bred primarily for their meat, some farm operators were cashing in on the large quantities of fur generated during the slaughter process. One major rabbit outfit admitted exporting furs to China, where it is typically used as trim on fashion accessories such as handbags or gloves.

Portuguese rabbit farms not involved in the fur trade were also exposed as having appalling conditions however - undercover footage shot at dozens of rabbit breeding facilities across the country revealed a pattern of cruelty and inhumane husbandry.

Although there is likely to be differences, the UK developer has admitted the rabbits would be housed in wire cages in windowless barns.

‘Regardless of the primary purpose for factory farming the rabbits, their suffering will be the same whether they are reared and slaughtered for their flesh or for their skin,’ say the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

The campaign group Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) agrees and says the public is unlikely to support intensive rabbit farming where the animals will ‘never have a chance to run around outside or to explore and burrow in their environment’.

‘Our information shows that in these intensive systems, rabbits can be so starved of any stimulation such as hay to eat and places in which to burrow, that out of sheer frustration they eat each others’ ears – not an image that many of us would want to have in our heads when eating a stew or wearing an angora jumper,' says a CIWF spokesperson.

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