Monday 17 January 2022 | 21

One Voice is re-entering the fray for Angora rabbits

One Voice is re-entering the fray for Angora rabbits

Mis à jour le 08 June 2022

Six years after our first investigation infiltrating the breeders exploiting Angora rabbits, they continue to scream in pain and terror.
We are filing a negligence complaint at the European Union Court of Justice and a preliminary review alongside the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Hr blog

A long-haul field survey

In 2016, our investigators went to establishments where rabbits were writhing in pain. The owners had shown them how to stretch them out and attach their paws to a plank of wood in order to be able to better pull off their fur by the fistful helped with a comb. Including around the eyes and genital area, where their skin tore, leaving them without protection from the cold, and bleeding. Their cries of terror and their attempts to escape were all the more terrible to witness.

The footage that we subsequently revealed, in 2018 and 2020, showed that none of that had changed and even that one of the breeders plucked the rabbits to music while whistling as if it were nothing. Our petition is still online.


A legal battle in France and at European level

The living conditions and the exploitation of these animals are guided by European and national regulations on breeding or production animals. In this context, after our first investigation, we requested that the Minister of Agriculture and Food forbid the collection of rabbit fur by ‘depilation’ (official term), as well as the sale and purchase of products containing rabbit fur collected in this way. Faced with their implicit refusal, we went to the State Council.
On this occasion, we produced Professor Broom's main report condemning this practice and the associated breeding methods and put back into question the trustworthiness and effectiveness of Lagodendron, a plant which is supposed to help the rabbits fur fall out more easily.
In June 2019, the State Council rejected our requests mainly on the basis that the sloughing of rabbits every quarter is natural and that the method used is painless (combing and using Lagodendron). It also hid behind a Good Practice Guide, developed by the industry itself! But who better than the executioners to say that there is no suffering? We will come back to impartiality.

Following this decision, we filed a complaint before the European Commission French State on 11 June 2020. This complaint is based on the fact that “the member states have made arrangements for owners or keepers to take all appropriate measures in order to guarantee the welfare of their animals and in order to ensure that said animals do not undergo any pain, suffering, or unnecessary harm”, and that “the natural or artificial breeding methods that cause or could potentially cause suffering or harm to the animals concerned must not be practised. This arrangement does not preclude certain methods likely to cause suffering or minimal or momentary injury, or call for a procedure that is not likely to cause lasting damage, while these methods are authorised by national measures.”

But in November 2020, the Commission closed the file. According to them, we did not provide sufficient information proving the existence of a general practice, a problem with the national legislation's conformity with the Union laws, or a systematic lack of French authorities in Union law.

However, they recalled beforehand that this issue does fall under their jurisdiction...

Two procedures relaunched in light of new information

We therefore consulted Professor Broom once again, who was this time looking at the Good Practice Guide from the Institut technique de l’aviculture (ITAVI: France’s Technical Institute that is an expert in the poultry, rabbit, and fish sectors). And on 2 April 2021, we received his conclusions.

« The evidence appearing in the ITAVI Guide — the photos, videos, and the scientific literature — attest to the existence of many major problems when it comes to the welfare of Angora rabbits in all breeding farms carrying out combing and pulling out fur. »
Professor Donald Maurice Broom

In particular, he recommends that Angora rabbits, who need more care than other breeding rabbits, may not be lifted up by their fur or ears or attached by their paws, and may be put under sedation if necessary before and during the fur collection, which must incidentally be done by cutting the fur and not by pulling on it. Heat-related stress should also be reduced to a minimum.

Simultaneously, the French Rural Code and Maritime Fishing Code was enhanced by a new prohibition on 18 December 2020: “It is forbidden for all those who, to whatever end it may be, breed, look after, or possess domestic or wild animals tamed or kept in captivity... to implement breeding techniques likely to lead to unnecessary suffering to the animals, considering the sensitivity of the species concerned and the physiological stage of the animals.
In order to ensure that the living conditions of the breeding animals meet the biological needs of their species, the minister in charge of agriculture may impose the monitoring of professional breeders’ establishments for the implementation of breeding practices that respect animal welfare”.

As the laws have evolved, and strengthened by the new evaluation from Professor Broom, we are once again asking the Minister for Agriculture for a preliminary plea on this issue on breeding techniques likely to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal considering the sensitivity of the species concerned. At the same time, we are filing a new complaint before the European Commission on the basis of this expert report. We are organising a weekend to raise awareness of Angora rabbits’ suffering in France on 22 and 23 January 2022 (follow the link to our report for more information).

Who is Professor Broom?

Professor Broom holds a Master of Arts, a PhD, and a PhD in Science from the University of Cambridge.

He worked as a lecturer and then as an associate professor in the Zoology department and was positioned at the University of Reading from 1967 to 1986, then in the veterinary medicine department as a Professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Cambridge from 1986 to 2009. He has led research in biology and veterinary medicine since 1964 and was still doing so in 2018. This research relates to animal behaviour, the physiology of stress, animal welfare, animal management, disease transmission, as well as interactions between humans and other species. He studied in particular the effects of living conditions, management procedures, transport, handling, and culling on animal welfare. He has published 260 referenced scientific articles and eleven books, notably Stress and Animal Welfare (in collaboration with K. G. Johnson), Sentience and Animal Welfare, and Domestic Animal Behaviour and Welfare (in collaboration with A. F. Fraser).

In the framework of his consulting work concerning animal welfare alongside governments, he has held the following responsibilities:

  • President of the European Union Scientific Committee in the ‘Animal Welfare’ section, 1990-1997.
  • Vice-president of the European Union Scientific Committee for Animal Health and Welfare, 1997-2003.
  • Vice-president and member of the Animal Health and Welfare scientific panel of the European Food Safety Authority, 2003-2012.
  • At the request of the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, he produced a 75-page study on animal welfare in the European Union which was published in January 2017.
  • President of the task force for animal welfare during transport by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), 2003-2007.
  • Scientific advisor alongside the Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes standing committee, 1987-2000.
  • Board member for the Welfare of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes (British Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food), 1991-1999.
  • Member of the Animal Procedures Committee (Home Office, United Kingdom), 1998-2006.
  • He personally testified on subjects relating to animal welfare at the European Parliament, World Trade Organisation, and alongside tribunals in several countries as an expert witness.
  • He led scientific research on animal behaviour, physiology, production, and protection since 1964. He has been a member of the panel and task force for EFSA who have produced a report on the welfare of rabbits (EFSA, 2005) and task forces who have produced reports on handling, transport, and culling of farmed animals, including rabbits. He therefore proves a specialised knowledge in domains of management and rabbit welfare in farming, as well as during transport and culling.

Translated from the French by Joely Justice

Julia Mothé
Hr blog

In the subject

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Comments 21

I accept that publication of my comments is subject to the code of conduct.

astro | Thursday 19 May 2022

L'humain est le pire animal sur Terre...Au nom du "Dieu Argent" ,il se permet de tout détruire sur son passage! Le Monde actuel fonctionne sur le profit ,quelle que soit la manière...Il faut gagner de l'argent encore et encore!! Les animaux sont les premiers à payer de leur vie ce système de consommation!! Arrêtez donc d'acheter de la laine angora ou pas. Il y a d'autres moyens à notre disposition pour se protéger du froid. De toute façon, tant que nos" penseurs" penseront "profit et rentabilité" ,le monde restera ce monde de brutes et de barbares!! Il est temps de "grandir"!!

Sylvia | Sunday 20 March 2022

En torturant les animaux vous faites de ce monde un enfer. N'avez vous aucun autre moyen de vous enrichir. Vous condamnez le futur de vos enfants car en définitive, on finit par récolter ce que l'on sème. Torturer les animaux, détruire la terre, décimer les forêts, n'est pas signe d'évolution
Vous sciez la branche sur laquelle vous êtes assis

Miriam | Friday 28 January 2022

C'est inconcevable que ces actes cruels continuent encore a être autorisés. Nous avons besoin de plus des personnes comme le professeur Broom pour que la souffrance des innocents voit un jour là fin. Bravo à vous tous, courageux et courageuses, engagés dans ce combat si noble.

Olivo | Tuesday 25 January 2022

Comment peut on faire souffrir ces animaux, pour mettre leurs poils sur des vêtements et enrichir le monde de la mode et du prêt à porter. On peut faire avec du poil synthétique. Les lapins sont des etres affectueux et qui savent vivre, au sein d'une famille, avec d'autres animaux comme des chats (j'ai pu vivre cette belle aventure).
Il faut que leurs souffrances cessent.