How far may rabbit cage’s space recommendations reach: the gap between science and regulations
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AuthorVillagrá, Arantxa; Olivas, Irene; Estellés, Fernando; Blas, E.; Rodríguez, T.; Rosell, J.; Pascual, Juan J.
Cita bibliográficaVillagrá, A., Olivas, I., Estellés, F., Blas, E., Rodríguez, T., Rosell, J. et al. (2012). How far may rabbit cage’s space recommendations reach: the gap between science and regulations. Proceedings 10th World Rabbit Congress, 1057-1061.
Animal welfare is a major concern in livestock production. The impact of housing conditions on animal well-being is under study in several species such as chickens, laying hens, or pigs and, some European Directives have been developed in order to protect animal welfare. In these Directives aspects related to housing conditions have been regulated. Several attempts have been done to propose a European Directive for rabbit farming in terms of welfare protection, but any agreement have been reached for now. One of the main hot spots is related to cages design. Strong efforts are being made nowadays in order to reach a compromise to define cages characteristics which really benefit rabbits’ welfare. In this context, the main aim of this work is to develop a critical review about rabbit does space needs in relation to cages design. It becomes necessary to determine the behavioural needs of rabbits in terms of welfare, so that the space requirements can be known. This might lead to define appropriate housing conditions, although the needs of the animal can change according to age, learning, diurnal rhythm, season and genetic relations. In general, regarding the height of the cages (as well as width), few papers have been found and a European Food Safety Authorities’ report recognises, that in the absence of scientific evidence concerning these needs of rabbits, it may be important for growing rabbits to be able to sit and stand with ears erect, as well as rear up occasionally. Regarding the use of platforms, enriching the cage with raised platforms aims at satisfying the doe’s need for isolation from the litter, rather than stimulating exercise. Nevertheless, the use of platforms may cause hygiene problems which have to be solved. Therefore, elevated platforms might be considered as environmental enrichment elements and not as structural needs. The patent general lack of information in the topic must be considered when new housing conditions are being proposed, and only those aspects which could lead to real improvement of rabbit’s welfare have to be taken into account. The authors propose a cage size for lactating does of 45×75×38 cm (height, length and width) with a minimum surface of 3,500 cm2 (nest-box not included).