Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


USDA Classifies Rabbits as Poultry

The USDA classifies rabbits as poultry, deeming it unnecessary to render animals unconscious before slaughter.  And when it comes to smaller animals, they don't even pretend to protect them from cruelty.

It's 2010 and rabbits are still classified as poultry by the USDA. The Food Safety and Inspection Service reports that "because rabbits and poultry are nearly the same size, it is common practice to slaughter rabbits in poultry establishments. Therefore, to simplify reporting from inspectors, rabbits are grouped in with poultry.

In Canada, there is no Code of Practice for the care and handling of rabbits. The first step in developing a Code is for a national commodity group to contact NFACC and indicate an interest, but such an association doesn't exist. Meat rabbits are exported from Manitoba, for example, into the US where they are excluded from the HSA. 

2014: USDA slaughterhouse inspection reports indicate many rabbits- up to 38 at a time- are dying in transport between the farm and slaughterhouse, as well as arriving too sick to be used for meat. (Source: Rabbit Advocacy Network)

Production and world market: the rabbit in the European Union

March 8, 2011  British Vet Association Says Rabbits Need Own Welfare Code Of Practice

December 2012 Farmed Rabbits, New South Wales

March 5, 2013 Petition asking EU to regulate rabbit farming; efforts continue into 2021 & beyond

Read more: Meat rabbits and some statistics; Surrey livestock bylaws, Humane Slaughter Act anything but

August 8, 2013 Feeding rabbits to poor a mindless proposal, Carmina Gooch's letter in the Vancouver Sun

Meet your “meat” rabbit

September 7, 2014 James McWilliams

As you may have heard, Whole Foods is establishing a pilot program to sell rabbit meat. Take a moment and read the company's welfare standards here and you'll quickly realize that the rabbits can be produced under conditions very close to industrial circumstances. For example, "Although outdoor access is not required . . . ." And so on.

Interestingly, the welfare regulations outlined in the link above abruptly end when it comes to slaughter methods. Transport is covered: "Transport must not exceed 8 hours." But nothing about the killing itself. This omission should raise a red flag. Surely, the "harvesting" is regulated, right?

Nope. Rabbit meat falls under state inspection. In Texas you can apply for an inspection exemption. For example, here's this  from the Texas Department of Health Services: "Anyone that raises poultry or rabbits, and slaughters 10,000 birds or rabbits (or combination thereof) per year or less may opt to apply for a Grant of Poultry Exemption instead of a Grant of Inspection.  These products may be sold on the farm or through locations other than the farm." Other states allow the same (how many I've not yet researched).

Again, though, note that there's nothing on slaughter itself. To discover if there were any regulations regarding how rabbits were dispatched, I searched around the extension agency literature. Here's advice from an undated Texas A&M report:

"The preferred method of slaughtering a rabbit is by dislocating its neck. With the left hand hold the animal by its hind legs. Place the thumb of the right hand on the neck just behind the ears, with the fingers extended under the chin. Push down on the neck with the right hand, stretching the animal. Press down with the thumb. Then with a quick movement, raise the animal's head and dislocate the neck."

A recent Mississippi extension agent recommends this:

“The rabbit is held firmly by the rear legs and head; it is stretched full length. Then with a hard, sharp pull, the head is bent backward to dislocate the neck. The rabbit can also be struck a hard, quick blow to the skull behind the ears. A blunt stick or side of the hand is commonly used to incapacitate the rabbit. Both methods quickly render the rabbit unconscious.”

To be sure, there are rabbit slaughterers out there who really want the slaughter to be done properly, because if you screw up, you know, the meat won't taste very good. Raising-rabbits.com warns:

"Any stress during the butchering process can result in the release of adrenaline and other endocrine hormones associated with the animal’s flight response. These hormones negatively affect the flavor of the rabbit meat, and will toughen the meat." It then instructs you how to kill a rabbit with a broomstick.

Comment: Proves yet again the insensitivity and stupidity of the human species. How can one not care about or discount the pain, suffering, and anxiety animals feel before being unmercilessly slaughtered?

October 19, 2014 RAN gets FOIA; Finds out more about Iowa Rabbit

March 5, 2015 The Rabbit Advocacy Network has released new photos taken inside Iowa Rabbit, A Whole Foods supplier, which is clearly violating the “humane standards” of care, the company claims it created: Whole Foods’ Pilot Animal Welfare Standards. Thankfully, there are many organizations and individuals going undercover to reveal the reality of what industry wants to keep hidden from the public. Don’t turn a blind eye! Don’t buy the lie! http://www.rabbitadvocacynetwork.org/new-photos-from-iowa-rabbit-supplier-to-whole-foods/

June 1, 2015 NBC Bay Area has confirmed that Whole Foods is not being truthful in its claims regarding standards of care for rabbits and the demand for rabbit meat: An analysis of the reports and a review of what are believed to be internal sales numbers show that consumer demand and animal welfare may both be much lower than what Whole Foods has suggested.

Source: USDA Inspections Offer Glimpse into the Supply Chain for Whole Foods' New Rabbit Meat Pilot Program May 21, 2015 NBC Bay Area. Consumers have the power to stop the cruelty. Don’t buy the lies!

May 28, 2015 Petition: No rabbits as dinner! a horrific industry

May 5, 2015 Last Chance for Animals Reveals New Investigation: The Largest Rabbit Slaughterhouse in the US Exposed

September 15, 2015 update: Whole Foods Market announces the end of rabbit meat sales. On its website it states “the pilot ultimately revealed the sales volume did not justify the continuation or expansion of the pilot to a national program. We expect all remaining product will be sold-through by January, 2016."  

“As always, Whole Foods Market’s knowledgeable in-house butchers are happy to provide suggestions and recommendations for customers seeking lean alternatives like quail, pheasant, buffalo/bison, lamb or venison.” 

Comment: Whole Foods did not expect or acknowledge the enormous public backlash when it announced the pilot project in June 2014. It has been under fire previously for false advertising when it was found they deceived their customers by selling unlabeled genetically modified products, while claiming “Nothing Artificial, Ever.” This company is unethical, socially irresponsible, misleads shoppers about its support of small farmers, and lies about humane standards, among other practices. It’s all about the bottom line and the only reason rabbit meat was discontinued is because of the lack of sales. Public pressure and boycotts work. 

Find out more about Whole Foods: http://michaelbluejay.com/misc/wholefoods.html

Read more: End the Cage Age - Make farming rabbits in cages illegal!

No laws to protect Canadian livestock rabbits; NFACC; letters; Colorado cruelty case tests definition; Meat Inspection Regulations; Codes underway for rabbits 2015; update 2017; Feb./18 Codes released

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