Meta-analysis on the effects of housing on growing rabbits
Photo copyright: ©Compassion in World Farming
Rabbits are the second most-farmed species in Europe, but are under-represented in welfare research. We conducted a meta-analysis to help understand how the housing environment affects growing rabbits, particularly on farms. This approach was useful to reveal trends in previous studies; however we were restricted in what we could include by the existing literature. For example, the measures of welfare were mainly variables on mortality and performance, with limited information on behaviour and no information on other aspects of welfare, such as affective states.
The review, of twenty seven publications, revealed how different factors in the housing environment affect behaviour, performance and mortality. The challenge of promoting welfare in rabbit farms was highlighted, because some factors that increased behavioural expression of the rabbits reduced their performance for commercial production. Other factors, including providing non-medicated feed and a higher space allowances in cooler climates, complemented production. The findings, interpreted in light of the studies included, are expected to inform the development or improvement of housing systems with better welfare for growing rabbits.
The article was written by AWRN member Rebecca Sommerville (formerly Compassion in World Farming, UK) and Roberto Ruiz and Xavier Averós (NEIKER-Teknalia, Spain) and funded by Compassion in World Farming.
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