According to the EU Agriculture Committee in a resolution voted on Wednesday, healthier and affordable alternatives, such as park or pen farming systems should replace current methods.
MEPs said that improving the welfare and living conditions of the rabbits would help to prevent disease, subsequently reducing the need for intensive use of antibiotics that could end up in the human food chain.
“The mere fact that after so many years we are finally talking about minimum standards for the protection of rabbits is a success,” explained rapporteur Stefan Eck. He said that whilst progress has been made in the right direction, official EU rules are called for. “The fight for rabbit-specific EU legislation will continue.” An amendment requesting EU legislation on minimum standards for the protection of farm rabbits was rejected by a single vote.
The improvement of the animal health also impacts human health, according to MEPs. Animal health encompasses housing conditions, good animal husbandry and management.
In an effort to ensure that rabbit farms are managed and monitored betters, MEPs are calling on EU member states to gradually phase out the use of battery cages and to replace them with holding areas that would allow disease-prevention and targeted checks.
To achieve this, the EU Commission alongside member states should encourage research into the best housing systems to improve the welfare of different types of rabbits. However, MEPs do acknowledge the importance of finding a balance between animal welfare, farmers’ financial situations and the affordability of rabbit meat for consumers.
Therefore, the EU Commission ought to be providing guidelines and EU-wide recommendations on farmed rabbits’ health, welfare and housing said members of the European parliament. In addition, calls have been made to ensure that all rabbit meat imported to member states from countries outside of the EU meet the same food safety and animal welfare as the meat that is produced within the Union.
To support higher costs of alternative farming methods, the Commission has been told that it should do more in helping promote the consumption of rabbit meat. Specific support has been requested to soften the impact of any new compulsory measures. It has been suggested that EU rural development funding should be used to fund farmers that opt for higher-welfare alternatives.