Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


November 7, 2014 Carmina Gooch wrote to agriculture ministers and farm animal council managers regarding rabbit welfare concerns in the meat industry.   

To: Hon. Gerry Ritz, Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada; Hon. Norm Letnick, BC Ag Minister; Derek Sturko, BC Deputy Ag Minister; Jackie Wepruk, NFACC; & Carolyn MacLaren, BC FACC

Re: Farmed Rabbit Welfare Concerns

Dear Agriculture Ministers & Farm Animal Care Council Managers:

I am writing with regard to concerns over farmed rabbits in Canada and the lack of Codes of Practice for them, or a national farm animal welfare system that would encompass all animals raised for food.

Although the meat rabbit industry is relatively small, comparatively speaking to that of other species, it doesn’t excuse the reality that a commodity group, (as I've been informed), hasn’t organized and approached the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) until very recently to develop a code. Furthermore, a code will take years to complete. Why didn't a provincial association come forward sooner? 

Perhaps it is only now that undercover investigations by Mercy For Animals Canada have exposed egregious and inherent cruelty in other sectors that this industry felt it would soon be targetted. Industry cannot, and should not be policing itself. The public deserves an open, transparent system, with strong enforcement of regulations.

Animal welfare protections and reforms are long overdue. It is government’s duty to provide leadership and develop strategies to improve animal welfare.

Livestock rabbits typically live in deplorable conditions and are not accorded the Five Freedoms:

  • 1.      Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
  • 2.      Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
  • 3.      Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  • 4.      Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind
  • 5.      Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment, which avoid mental suffering

Compassion in World Farming, recently launched a campaign to “End the Cage Age,” the goal being to end the use of all cages in EU farming. They are starting with rabbits, after undercover investigations in 16 separate farms throughout Europe revealed unspeakable welfare conditions,the most barren environments imaginable, and hotbeds for disease, dependent on the routine use of antibiotics just to keep animals alive.”

With regard to rabbit slaughter, are inspectors present to ensure that the slaughter process is carried out ‘humanely’ and in accordance to regulations? When was the last time inspectors were at the two BC establishments? Were the rabbits rendered unconscious before being strung up for slaughter? 

The Labour Party of New Zealand has pledged to end all factory farming by 2017, recognizing that: “We are no longer discussing how cruel factory farming is. Now we are talking about when it will end for good.”

Labour’s pledge to end factory farming a victory for animals

Codes of Practice for ALL farm animals must be incorporated into the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act so the standards can be enforced in law. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have all enshrined the standards into their provincial legislation. Mr. Letnick, I’ll ask again, why hasn’t B.C. done the same?

Animal welfare, including that of rabbits, is important to Canadians. A society and its moral progress is judged by how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable members.

I look forward to a response to my questions and concerns.