For many years, lots of customers have requested that we carry rabbit. But first we needed to ensure the rabbit we sold would be consistent with WFM’s high animal welfare standards. As most rabbit production is grim, we set out to develop our own set of animal welfare standards, which began a rigorous four-year process to address the welfare issues in rabbit production. As we have done in the past, our hope is that our standards will be a model for industry change.
The welfare-focused standards we developed at Whole Foods Market, are designed around their instinctual behaviors and include more than 75 species-specific requirements that ensure the overall health and well-being of the animals
· Take into account the fact that rabbits socialize in groups. While most rabbits raised for meat are kept in cages, we require group pens on solid floors with plenty of dry bedding, additional places to hide and climb, and room to forage, groom, hop, socialize and play.
· Require that our rabbits have continuous access to drinking water, feed, roughage, gnawing blocks, tunnels and places for seclusion.
· Ensure injured animals are treated.
· Allow the mother rabbit time to nurse and recover before being re-bred, as rabbits are famous for their prolific breeding
We’ve worked closely with our supplier to set up several innovative family farms that are meeting those standards, and are now testing the program in a limited number of our stores within northern California and in the Washington, DC metro area.
It was important to us to provide rabbits that were raised in better conditions than what the industry offered.