Philip Lymbery | This Easter, spare a thought for the reality of almost 1 billion rabbits
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This Easter, spare a thought for the reality of almost 1 billion rabbits

The Easter Bunny is an age-old imaginary character. A construct when, more often than not, an adult dresses up as a (much) larger than life rabbit, to hide Easter eggs. It brings a sense of fun and colour to Easter, and kids love it. The Easter Bunny is as intrinsically linked to Easter itself, as Santa Claus is to Christmas.

I’m not trying to put a dampener on your Easter traditions; and of course, it’s great to get involved with kids and grandkids, spending quality time with them. But I ask that you spare a thought for the real rabbits throughout the world.

While as a nation, the UK is not well known for having rabbit on the menu – it is a popular meat to eat throughout the world. And the sheer number of rabbits kept in horrific, barren, overcrowded conditions, is something I want to change.

Almost 1 billion rabbits are slaughtered annually for meat.

According to the FAO, 167 million of these are in the EU. Making rabbits the third-most farmed species in Europe. If you haven’t heard these statistics before – they’re difficult to get your head around. In addition, there is no species-specific EU legislation to protect farmed rabbits and no specified minimum standards of welfare. This means that the vast majority are raised in industrial caged farming systems that cause severe welfare issues. There is an EU ban on the battery cage for hens. Why isn’t there one in place for rabbits? Compassion in World Farming is pushing for there to be one.

We believe that barren, dirty cages are simply not acceptable. With barely any space, rabbits commonly cannot adopt normal postures such as lying stretched out, sitting and standing with their ears erect or rearing up to explore their surroundings. They cannot move normally or comfortably, and some don’t even have enough space to perform a single hop.

© Anita Jeram

This Easter as we enjoy our time with our families, our chocolate Easter bunnies and the like, I’d urge you to think about the plight of the real rabbits in the world.  There is every likelihood that the packaging on your chocolate egg or bunny, will be bigger than the area of real rabbits’ cages for their short lives.  Young rabbits in the EU, reared for meat are typically caged in groups with 450 to 600cm² each; this is less than the area of an A4 sheet of paper.

We need to end the cage age now, once and for all.