Once again we found rabbits confined in tiny hutches on stilts, some with the doors open, but with no obvious way for the rabbits to access the ground below and return to the hutch. Some rabbits were housed alone, which must be stressful for such sociable animals. Others were crowded, two or three to a hutch with a total floor area which appeared to be in breach of the welfare code. These are likely to be females, kept and exploited for breeding.
Investigators were careful not to open hutches which contained live animals, in case this caused them distress. A small number of rabbits appeared to be housed within metal arc pens with solid dark old metal army surplus ammunition boxes as hutches, which we imagine would be poorly ventilated and could become very hot in the summer.
There often did not appear to be enough clean, edible hay. The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund state that: ‘Just like their wild cousins, domestic rabbits’ diets should be made up of around 85% grass or hay. Grass or hay is vital, for two very important reasons. The first is so that they have healthy guts and the second is their teeth. Rabbits’ teeth grow continually.’ It is important for rabbits to graze often in order keep their digestive system moving, if the gut becomes stuck it can be life-threatening for rabbits.
In order to form pairs or groups of rabbits, requires careful supervised introduction and bonding. We are doubtful that this could even be achieved with rabbits who are not spayed or neutered, at a site with potentially hundreds, if not thousands of animals. Presently there are around 40 rabbits on site but there are plans to massively expand, to be breeding around 10,000 individuals for their meat and fur each year.
One rabbit appeared to be having a seizure – s/he was seen to leap and fall in their cage. Tragically, s/he was later found dead. Which questions the validity of apparently needing a worker stationed on site providing 24 hour around the clock care.
Investigators also discovered a huge mound of old soiled hutch bedding just metres from the enclosures. This is far from in the best interests of health and positive hygiene as this would encourage flies.
Over 132,000 people have now signed a petition calling for Rutland Council to ‘Refuse Planning for an Intensive Rabbit Farm in Rutland’. This demonstrates the strength of public feeling against these proposals. People do not want yet another means of exploiting animals. Rabbits are rightly considered by many to be our companions, and not food. Hundreds of people have submitted planning objections. We hope that the Council will take note and reject the plans.
Findings have been reported to the relevant authorities.
Please sign the petition against the plans here