The lives of wild European
rabbits – the same species as our domestic rabbits - are not
comfortable, most of the time. By 8 months of age in the wild, over half
of all weaned rabbits have died at the paws or talons of predators. That is their role
within the ecosystem – no wrong has been done to them.
Don’t feel bad about this, since the predator
prey relationship serves both the predator and
the prey. The hunger in the stomach of the predator is satiated, and the colony
of rabbits as a collective unit is improved while still maintaining or increasing their numbers. It truly is a win-win for
What this also means is that there is no innate
right to life for a rabbit, since their lot is to feed others. This is possibly why
some rabbits simply panic and die before
they can feel the hot breath of the predator.
Sometimes colonies of feral rabbits are out of
place and should be purged (not “rescued”). The feral rabbits roaming Australia
are an extreme example of this. (See the picture above.) Numbering in the hundreds of millions, there is
no way to “rescue” all of these. Nor would the rescue of 100+ million feral
rabbits respect their role in life as prey animals.
Outside of Europe, where the European rabbit is native and has lived in balance
within the ecosystem for millennia, feral rabbit colonies, such as a large
colony on the campus of the University of Victoria, are considered invasive
species. As cute as he is, the little bunny below does not belong in the wild in British Columbia, Canada.
How to tear up the countryside - release rabbits into the wild!
big scheme, a very few rabbits are granted the privilege of pethood.
Pet rabbits indeed give great joy and
companionship to their owners. Nevertheless, one must not assume that all
rabbits should be pet rabbits or house rabbits. They aren’t and they shouldn't be. The vast majority of rabbits live wild
and fearful lives as prey animals. The vast majority of domestic rabbits, while living lives free of fear, are
livestock, filling the role of prey animal in symbiosis with humans.
Hard as it is sometimes to accept, it is
ethical, and an honor to the rabbit, to utilize it as a food source if you so
choose or need to do so.
Those rabbits accorded pet status are no longer considered a ‘food source,’ and we at Raising-Rabbits have
never recommended eating pet rabbits. This is because you enter a
unilateral agreement of sorts to take care of a pet rabbit in exchange for companionship. (If you were starving, your survival would take precedence over the survival of a rabbit.)
The care and protection of the herd
in exchange for the use of a few of the weaker or surplus animals while maintaining balance in the predator prey relationship is a classic case of a symbiotic
This is as it should be.
Rabbit breeders can also learn from the rabbit predator prey relationship
Rabbit breeders generally have very noble reasons
for raising the rabbits that they eat:
It is important to many to know where their meat comes
from, that it is not pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, and the animals crammed
into concentrated living quarters. These same rabbit breeders may also
obtain beef or pork from a mom-and-pop farm where the animals have been
treated just as courteously.
This is how anyone can protest their
perception of the meat industry without possibly endangering their own health
through a B12-deficient vegan diet plan.
Therefore they treat their rabbits kindly and with honor, and butcher them
painlessly and humanely when the time comes.
The wise management of your rabbitry
population mimics Nature.
Culling the infirm and the weak improves the herd by
resulting in healthier, stronger progeny and rabbits that may overcome their
fears more successfully.
At the same time, culling does not necessarily reduce
overall herd numbers. The rabbit’s amazing reproductive capabilities ensure plenty of
offspring that are stronger and more healthy than the ones you have culled or eaten.
Respect the natural fears of your
rabbits. The fear of fear or anxiety is innate to a rabbit and cannot be
entirely bred out, though it can perhaps be improved upon through good animal
When weaning litters, make the
changes in your kits’ lives in increments for the purpose of reducing anxiety.
Wean by removing the doe.
Wait a day or two between each new change in your
If a single kit is slated to go to a new home, house it by
itself for a day or two in your rabbitry before making the transfer to the new situation.
Rabbit breeders don’t often see rabbits or bunnies keel over from fright (I’ve
never seen it), but incremental weaning is still important as it can even out the stresses in a weanling's life, thereby reducing the risk of fatal diarrhea.