The vote on Minimum Standards for the Protection of Farm Rabbits will take place during this week’s plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. I am very much aware of the importance of this issue for many UK citizens, having received thousands of emails on it over the past week.
The first thing to say is that MEPs will not be voting on new legislation, but rather will be asking the European Commission to bring forward a legislative proposal on minimal standards for farm rabbits.
Currently in the EU farm rabbits are typically caged and provided with an area of less than the size of two ordinary A4 sheets of paper per rabbit, and with no opportunities to exercise and express their natural behaviour. This should rightly be a cause for concern. In addition, there is a high rate of disease and mortality amongst farm rabbits owing to factors such as infectious diseases which occur with high frequency in the unsuitable conditions of the cage system.
Just as we legislated to end battery farming of chickens in Europe, so we should address the atrocious conditions in which farmed rabbits are reared.
This is not anti-business, as some have claimed.
Having common welfare standards for farmed rabbits across Europe avoids undercutting by the least scrupulous. The International Finance Corporation has pointed out that improved animal welfare can enable a business to enhance efficiency and profitability.
Labour MEPs will support the report, and we will vote in favour of the amendment that legislative proposals on minimum standards for the protection of farm rabbits should be drawn up.