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We all know about the adorable aesthetics of rabbits. At present, eight genera of rabbits are to be found in the world, of which the Amami rabbit of Japan already faces extinction. They are known for having fuzzy pelts and fine hair that may be commercially used to create fur products.
In addition, rabbits are known for being extremely meek and relatively slower mammals that can hardly protect themselves from the various attacks that are posed on them. Their essential harmless nature makes them an easy victim of the worldwide animal fur industry. In fact, it has been accurately surmised that rabbit fur constitutes the fastest growing part of the worldwide fur trade. This proves to be a deplorable statistic end to one of the most playful and innocent animals that nature has on offer.
In the wild, rabbits frequent the meadows, grasslands, and other landscapes that have ample provisions for their survival. This makes rabbit warrens very easy to locate. Their underground burrows also alert hunters about their nesting extent. Owing to the fact that they usually live in packs, situating a single rabbit hole proves to be very lucrative for these hunters, as they can capture multiple rabbits from a single warren or interconnected ones.
The majority of the rabbit population is found in North America. This makes this continent one of the major producer and exporter of rabbit fur in the world. Along with North America, many European nations also pride themselves with the vain statistics of being a major player in the global rabbit fur industry.
Since a rabbit has a petite anatomy, about 30 to 40 rabbits need to be slaughtered to produce an average fur coat. Such a despicable fact places much pressure on wild-rabbit hunters. Consequently, extensive rabbit fur farms have cropped up in several parts of the world. Herein, rabbits are especially bred in torturous circumstances, just so that they can whet the cruel appetites of some superficial fashionista.
As far as commercial fur farming is concerned, the genus of rabbits that is most in demand is that of the Rex rabbits. Rex Rabbits may be of two kinds. While the Castor Rex exhibits a brownish color, and is the more expensive variety, the Chinchilla Rex provides the cheaper alternative. Other than these, another breed that has also proved to be highly popular is that of the Orylag rabbits, which are especially farmed in France for their fur as well as their meat.
This is a truly horrid instance of animal cruelty at its worst. In fact, mortality rates in rabbit farms happen to be very high. While the Rex rabbits exhibit a mortality rate of 10 to 15%, the mortality rate among Orylag rabbits is as high as 25 to 35%.
Countless ordeals and traumas are in store for these harmless rabbits in fur farms. In a rabbit fur farm, breeding rabbits are managed for 3 years. During this time, they are forced to reproduce at least twice a year. After the birth of their kits, the mother rabbits are forcibly separated from their offspring within 4 weeks. Such separations are continued for lengthy periods of time. In fact, mothers are only permitted to enter the nursing area during unstable feeding times. Such malicious partitions, which go against the natural course of mammary nursing, put the mothers under a great deal of stress. As a result, it is not uncommon for mother rabbits to show symptoms of derangement that might at times manifest itself in the form of cannibalism, wherein the mother may eat her young.
The fate of the children is also as horrible as that of their mothers. Whatever be their kind, all breeds of this helpless mammal are kept in abominable conditions. They are restrained in bare wire mesh cages that are too small to allow them the liberty to move about freely – something that they are instinctively programmed to do because of their natural reflexes. In fact, the cages for single rabbits have the measly dimension of about two shoeboxes. Sometimes as many as 12 rabbits are crammed into an enclosure that is only a third larger than the aforementioned single-rabbit cage size.
Owing to such poor and inhuman living conditions, many rabbits develop spinal deformations, broken bones, and appalling skin lesions. Further, the mesh flooring of the cages creates sore hocks, and other infectious paw injuries. Many of them are also afflicted by respiratory diseases, caused by poor ventilation. As a result, a considerable percentage of the rabbits lose their lives, much before reaching the slaughterhouse.
The slaughterhouse, in itself, is the representative vortex of inexcusable animal cruelty. These animals are often killed by incurring blows with heavy sticks before their throats are slits. At other places, these naturally docile and helpless animals are stunned by electric instruments. In view of the horrific way in which multiple rabbits are restrained in vertically piled crates, as they watch their brethren being slaughtered, while they, themselves, writhe and bleed in rabbit excrements, these fur farms can be rightly equated with modern day animal torture chambers.
While the Rex variety of rabbits are more common in the world, the more exclusive and expensive rabbit furs that adorn the wardrobe of the rich and famous are actually extracted from Orylag rabbits. These rabbits are the products of 15 years of genetic engineering endeavor that was undertaken by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).
The fur of these rabbits is known for being softer, shinier, and more resistant to the ravages of natural elements. Owing to this, these rabbits are only bred in a select few farms in France that maintain strict standards of quality. From here on, they are often transported to the design studios of some of the biggest fashion labels in the world.
The Orylag mothers are known for producing 7 – 12 babies at a time. After she has reproduced, she goes through forcible artificial insemination after only a few days.
Though such rabbits are considered to be bred in ethically acceptable conditions, they are, in fact, subjected to the very same kind of ruthless treatment that their Rex counterparts experience. Like the Rex rabbits, the Orylag rabbits are also separated from their mothers at four weeks. From this time until till their seventh week, they live with their siblings. Finally, they are placed in solitary cages, so as to prevent fighting (a physical manifestation of their psychological distress) and damage to their pelts. Once they are about 20 weeks old, they are slaughtered in cold blood.
There is little awareness among people about the conditions at rabbit fur farms. Even if many people know about the consequences of their fur purchases, very few of them have the conscience to say ‘NO’ to such products. This is evidenced in the fact that the rabbit fur sales have grown over the years.
While traders continue with their mad lust for money, countless rabbits are being killed to satiate the growing demands of this industry. With a gradual decrease in the production costs, it is estimated that rabbit fur sales are only going to escalate. This can only project a grim future for these social and endearing mammals.