Battery rabbit farms are set to return for the first time in 15 years after a rise in the popularity of rabbit meat.
In January, Waitrose saw a 350% rise in sales of rabbit. According to the Independent, at least six planning applications have been launched by Philip Kerry of T&S Nurseries in Lincolnshire, for farms of up to 1,000 rabbits each.
The reduced cost of feeding has helped re-introduce the practice. The farm's facilities include a hydroponic pond in which barley grass would be grown, providing 60% of the rabbits' diet. Grain would provide the rest, with Kerry's company milling its own dry feed.
The RSPCA said it was concerned about the conditions on the farms, particularly the amount of space the rabbits were given: 250 does and 30 bucks would be kept in 110cm x 60cm wire cages. The doe would share a cage with her seven to nine kittens until they reached five weeks of age.
At that point the young rabbits would be housed on the floor of the barn with access to an outdoor run measuring 3 metres by 9 metres. The does would remain in the cages and be "retired" at four to five years old, when their productivity drops.
Kerry said he planned to house the rabbits in complexes that were as free-range as possible. He added: "We consume something like 3,000 tonnes every year, which is not an insignificant amount, but nearly all of it comes from Eastern Europe."
By Gemma Rowbotham
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