Research on rabbit welfare has been fragmentary and to date has been performed by only a few European teams who have often neglected the productive and commercial aims of rabbit rearing. With European Project COST Action 848 (Multi-facetted research in rabbits: a model to develop healthy and safe production in respect with animal welfare), rabbit welfare began to be considered in European research projects with the focus mainly on ethology, welfare evaluation methods, doe-litter relationships, man-animal relationships, and reproducing and fattening housing systems. As regards legislation, since 1996 the Standing Committee for the protection of animals kept for farming purposes established in the European Council by the Convention on the Protection of farm animals (ETS 87/1976) has been preparing specific recommendations to ensure improved welfare of domestic rabbits kept for commercial purposes, which should provide the basis for future European and national regulations. The European Commission asked the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) for its opinion on "The impact of the current housing and husbandry systems on the health and welfare of farmed domestic rabbits". The present paper provides a critical review of the existing literature on rabbit welfare with special emphasis on housing conditions.
rabbit; ethology; welfare; housing conditions