The Life of a Rabbit: An Undercover Investigation
“The first time we entered, tears came into my eyes. All those asking looks, the wounds, the dead animals, rabbits who were visibly suffering. I still find it hard to see. I really wish for people to stop eating meat, after they view these images.”
No fun for Bunnies
Never before were Dutch rabbit farms filmed unannounced – until today. Ongehoord has published the shocking images which were shot by an undercover investigation team secretly inside 10% of all Dutch rabbit farms. The current investigation shows reality for meat rabbits is even worse than imagined.
The packed together animals had wounds, tumours, deformities, encephalitis, diarrhoea and other illnesses. On all the visited farms, dead animals were laying in between alive animals. The only rabbit farmer in the Netherlands with a ‘Beter Leven’ ranking (animal welfare label, initiated by the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals), keeps most of his meat rabbits in the same conditions as on regular farms: crammed, ill, bored, and extremely stressed. The investigation also highlighted the huge failings of the new welfare initiative, largely drafted by the sector itself, which offers the rabbits no improvements in living conditions whatsoever.
The rabbit farming industry
The life of meat rabbits differs in so many ways with the life of their peers who are kept as pets, and even more with the life of rabbits in the wild. The investigation team witnessed a lot of mother rabbits with inflamed eyes, mothers chewing at the cages and who displayed other kinds of stereotypical behaviour. Her children have a chance of one in five to die prematurely because of wounds, diseases and inflammations before even reaching the slaughterhouse. They will be transported to the slaughterhouse at the age of just 11 weeks, which requires a long and stressful journey abroad due to the Netherlands not having any rabbit slaughterhouses. At the slaughterhouse, the young rabbits are electrocuted, shackled upside down and have their throats cut, bleeding to death.
Shockingly, the rabbits in Dutch farms are not protected by any Dutch law – the farmers play by their own rules. In 2006, Dutch rabbit farmers drafted animal welfare regulations for the commercial rabbit farming industry. The most important changes consist of enlarging the cages, adding cage enrichment and installing a platform for mother rabbits. In 2011, half of these regulations were put into practise. The current published investigation shows welfare improvements mean little to nothing for the animals.
In nature rabbits dig enormous burrows of up to 3 meters deep and up to 40 meters long, including nurseries for their young. Those are located at the end of long corridors and are covered with soft materials like mosses. By closing the entrance to the hole every time the mother leaves her children, she protects them against other rabbits and predators. Rabbits are living in groups with a strict hierarchy. They eat around 40 times a day.
Ongehoord (Dutch for ‘unheard’) is a new organisation committed to a respectful and equal treatment of animals. Like humans, other animals are individuals with their own feelings, needs and interests. Ongehoord publishes investigations about the animal production industry and other industries in which animals are being used. By doing so, we expose the reality in which animals are living and give an honest view of animal exploitation in our society.