Long ears, soft fur, cotton tails, wiggly noses...Have you ever heard of a long eared chicken? No? That's probably because there is no such species. However, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) categorizes rabbits as poultry, effectively denying them protection under the 1958 Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HSA). The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act helps to protect livestock from needless suffering during slaughter. However, the act excludes animals categorized as poultry, including rabbits.
Clearly rabbits are not poultry. Domestic rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus, are decedents of wild European rabbits. They are mammals in the order Lagomorpha, not even closely related to birds. Rabbits have been domesticated for thousands of years and can make rewarding pets. They are intelligent animals; many can be trained to preform tricks on command and they can even be litter box trained. Surely these intelligent, candid animals deserve, in the very least, insurance of a humane death.
The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act basically ensures that species protected under the act are fully unconscious before being slaughtered for human consumption. Not being protected under the act has some pretty brutal ramifications for the animals involved.
Want to help? Please contact the USDA and voice your opinions (address below). Let them know that no animal should be forced to endure the pain and anxiety of being butchered alive, while still fully conscious, and that livestock categorized as poultry should be included under the HSA. Ask that the USDA adopt new regulations that ensure the most humane treatment possible for all of the animals who give their lives to benefit humans.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave.
S.W. Washington, DC 20250