Last updated 14 October 2017

Summary of Rabbit Meat farms in Australia

Up until 1987, there was a complete ban on rabbit farming in Australia. In 1987, Western Australia changed its legislation to lift that ban. New South Wales and Victoria followed suit. Before the bans were lifted, 2.7 million rabbits a year were estimated to have been hunted in Australia in the wild up until the early 1990s.

In 1996, The Australian government released the Rabbit Calicivirus Disease (RCD) as a biological control agent, to kill wild rabbits. This wiped out a large part of the wild rabbit population. As a result, the estimated number of hunted wild rabbits dropped considerably (to around 100,000 per year). This coincided with a resurgence in interest in rabbit farming in Australia.

 There is one model code of practice for intensive rabbit farming, however this is not part of legislation in many states. Rabbits raised for food are classified as “stock” animals, therefore many fundamental welfare laws such as exercise does not apply to them.

In NSW, the relevant laws governing slaughter of rabbits come from the Food Regulation 2015 (NSW). Those two standards have no definition of stunning or humane practices/ welfare.

  • 4466-1998: Hygienic production of rabbit meat for human consumption
  • 4696-2007: Hygienic production and transportation of meat and meat products for human consumption

Some welfare facts on farmed meat rabbits:

  • The Department of primary industries guidelines on farming meat rabbits in Australia is to confine them to cages. The age for slaughter is set between 10-13 week depending on the breed and the maximum growth.
  • Rabbits in Australia are raised for meat in crowded wire cages. They are intensively farmed in unsanitary conditions with next to no mobility, lack of veterinary care, high stress, confinement, and severe health conditions.
  • They live up to a maximum of 13 weeks, where they are then killed onsite or shipped to slaughterhouses in trucks.
  • Doe productivity is 7 litters per year with four to five rabbits per litter. The doe is culled after weaning 7 litters.
  • Bucks and does used for reproduction are kept in solitary confinement, a very unnatural situation.
  • Cages will often be stacked, with the lower rabbits becoming urine infested. The piles of faeces and urine under cages creates ammonia in such a high concentration that they suffer respiratory problems.
  • Cages are often covered with rabbit fur, with decomposing rabbits and flies over them on the floor or inside the cage.
  • Physical and psychological injuries are commonplace. Rabbit paws get stuck between the cage wires rending them unable to move. Rabbits are seen gnawing on cage bars from desperation and emotional stress.
  • Endemic disease is prevalent on the farms, with eye infections, breathing difficulties, coccidia diarrhoea and head tilt induced by stress, to name a few.
  • The following methods are used to stun rabbits:

(1) Cervical dislocation: which involves separation of the skull and the brain from the spinal cord by a pressure blow to the skull. Research shows that there is approximately 13 seconds of consciousness after the dislocation.

(2) Suspension by the hind legs: followed by a heavy, sharp blow to the back of the skull with a metal pipe. If no implement is available, it is recommended that the rabbit is picked up by the hind legs and swung so that the back of his head hits a hard surface such as a rock or post.

(3) Decapitation using a guillotine or sharp blade.

(4) ‘Bleeding out’ by cutting the major blood vessels in the neck while suspended upside down by their paws.


Summary taken from: Report on The Rabbit Meat Industry in Australia written by

Ethical Vegan Earth Research Inc. / Campaign: Down the Rabbit Holes