The UK produces 2-3 thousand tonnes of rabbit meat per year and imports 5,000 tonnes mostly from China, Hungary and Poland.
Production and welfare
- Commercial rabbit farms vary in size with large farms holding up to 12,000 breeding does.
- Females can produce 4 to 6 litters each year which consist of 4 to 7 young (kits).
- Natural weaning of kits is between 6 to 8 weeks, but young are removed from their mothers at 4 weeks old in commercial units.
- Most farmed rabbits are kept in mesh cages with automatic food and water feeders, and the cages stacked in 2 or 3 tiers to utilise building space.
- Farmed rabbits are identified by a tattoo in the ear, and toenail clipping and teeth trimming are necessary when rabbits are kept in cages.
- Farmers keep rabbits primarily for their meat due to the low value of their skins.
Rabbits can suffer from a large range of welfare problems and diseases, including fatal viruses such as myxomatosis, and sore hocks from sitting on wire mesh cage floors.
Transport and slaughter
Rabbits are transported in batches of 10 and should not be confined for more than 8 hours as there is no access to food and water.
Rabbits usually live for 9 years but are slaughtered for their meat from 3 to 4 months of age. Breeding rabbits are slaughtered at 3 years. Rabbits can be killed by neck dislocation, a heavy blow to the back of their head followed by decapitation or by electrical stunning before having their throat cut.
Find out more
You can find out more about farmed rabbit production and welfare, disease, transport and slaughter, as well as a full list of references, by reading the in-depth fact sheet on farmed rabbits.