Harrowing details have emerged of the horrific conditions at European rabbit farms where animals destined for pet food in Britain are crammed into tiny battery-style cages which they are born in and where they stay until slaughter 80 days later.
An investigation at farms in Italy, Greece, the Czech Republic, Poland and Cyprus found animals covered in sores and in such distress that they chewed off each other’s ears.
Despite being one of Britain’s favourite pets, many of the rabbits are turned into food for pets, much of which is bound for the UK. It is understood that around 300,000 rabbits - the vast majority caged - are imported to Britain every year.
The rabbits are treated with such appalling cruelty that many simply die in their cages. The bodies of these dead animals are then often simply left to rot, with the other rabbits forced to walked across the carcasses simply to make their way around the cramped cage.
The shocking investigation found decomposing animals, covered in sores and in such distress that they chewed each other’s ears off.
At one farm 16 rabbits were found locked in a cage just one metre square, according to the Mirror.
The treatment of the rabbits depends on whether they are male, female or newborn. When the male rabbits are crammed in tiny cages, the females are often kept in solitary confinement where they are artificially inseminated and forced to deliver litter after litter.
The fact of newborns deemed too small to be used for meat is even worse, with the tiny rabbits’ heads smashed against the wire to kill them or otherwise left to fall through the sharp metal bars on the floor of their cramped hutches, where they will starve to death in the squalid sewage pit below.
Speaking of the trade in Italy, one investigator said: ‘The scale of the trade in Italy is immense and the factory farmers are united in talking about their business in terms of ‘products’…not creatures.’The scale of the trade in Italy is immense and the factory farmers are united in talking about their business in terms of ‘products’…not creatures
‘When you see mothers and baby rabbits being hurled from supermarkets trolleys into cage after empty cage, it’s not difficult to imagine the same scene in a supermarket where products are grabbed off shelves and tossed into trollies racing through the aisles,’ they added.
Speaking of the situation in the Czech Republic, another eyewitness said: ‘[Feces] covered the whole area and it wouldn’t be possible to check on the welfare of the rabbits without wading through it. I didn’t see a farm as dirty as this in any other country and I’d already seen some appalling farms.’
Another activist revealed the problems in Greece, saying: ‘I shouldn’t call it a life really. It’s a three-month existence. An existence that takes away from these young animals everything that makes life worth living. What brief moments they get outside of their cages consist only of rough handling.’