Meet Brenda and Jacqui, two very lucky rabbits, and here is their story. The imminent closure of a factory farmed meat rabbit facility in Southern Tasmania spelled reprieve for 300 lucky bunnies, of which Brenda and Jacqui are just two. Securing their safety was the Tasmanian based animal sanctuary Big Ears who have worked tirelessly along with Victorian organisations, Freedom for Farmed Rabbits and Radical Rabbit to bring about the best animal welfare outcomes for the hapless New Zealand White rabbits. Sadly several rabbits were in such a poor state of health upon their rescue the only humane thing to do was to help them peacefully pass from this world – a passing that is never afforded a factory farmed rabbit.
Equally sad is the plight of factory farmed rabbits like Brenda and Jacqui who endure lives of misery, boredom, depravation and compromised health. While Australians are increasingly becoming aware about the plight of factory farmed pigs and chickens and are voting with their dollars accordingly, many are not aware that the factory farming of rabbits even occurs in this country. Rabbits are friendly, inquisitive and intelligent creatures, much loved by many. Statistics on farmed rabbit numbers are difficult to obtain, yet in 2003 it was estimated around 119,000 -132,000 rabbits on 80 – 100 farms were held captive in tiny wire cages suspended over concrete or earthen floors. The wire floors are far removed from what nature designed rabbits to spend their days on and can cause sores and injury, making it impossible to find a comfy bed, and ammonia ridden sheds can cause respiratory and eye problems.
Rabbit Farm - Photo credit: BigEars Sanctuary
Hopping about, burrowing and exploring their world are all fundamentals in a rabbit’s life, yet these simple things are an impossible dream for factory farmed rabbits. Severe confinement can not only compromise physical wellbeing but also lead to psychological stress resulting in stereotypical behaviours or fighting. Disease can quickly spread amongst the captive rabbits due to the cramped quarters and their lowered immunity due to stress. With high mortality rates, and a slaughter age of around 10-14 weeks, time on earth for a meat rabbit could well be described as hell on earth.
Proving rabbits can have wings, Brenda and Jacqui were flown to Victoria to take up residence at Edgar’s Mission. The girls have recently been desexed and are comfortably recovering enjoying grass, treats and kindness, things totally devoid from their previous life. Already they are proving wonderful ambassadors, being incredibly friendly, trusting and forgiving to the species that has so wronged their kind. And how do we tell the difference? While they certainly do look very similar, it is the individual personalities of Brenda and Jacqui that make them easy to identify. Brenda is far more outgoing, while Jacqui is somewhat shy and reserved. It is hard not to muse when cuddling these adorable girls, “what on earth were humans thinking when we decided to cage, confine and consume such an innocent creature”. The answer, I don’t think we were….
- Rabbits are not rodents. They are lagomorphs. Other lagomorphs include hares and pikas.
- Rabbits are mammals as they warm blooded and nurse their young, feeding them milk.
- A well cared for rabbit that has been spayed or neutered early in life can live for 8 to 12 years.
- The gestation period (pregnancy) of a rabbit is about 31 days.
- A male rabbit is called a buck, a female rabbit is called a doe and a baby rabbit is called a kit.
- Rabbits’ teeth never stop growing.
- Rabbits can be trained to use litter.
- A group of rabbits is called a herd and they live in a warren (or a wondrous place called Edgar’s Mission!)