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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment her Department has made of the need for regulations on the welfare of rabbits (a) kept as pets and (b) reared for human consumption in (i) domestic and (ii) farming environments; and if she will make a statement.
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 it is an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to an animal or to fail to provide for its welfare and this includes rabbits kept in all respects. The maximum penalty for these offences is six months’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. However, the Government recently announced its support for a Private Members’ Bill which seeks to increase the maximum custodial penalty from six months to five years for the offence of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.
The keeping of commercially farmed rabbits is additionally provided for by the Welfare of Farmed Animals Regulations 2007, which contains general provisions under which all farmed animals must be kept and has a specific schedule for rabbits. Defra also has a statutory welfare code for rabbits which provides good husbandry advice and which keepers of rabbits are required by law to be familiar with and have access to. Failure to observe the provisions of a code may be used in support of a prosecution.