Preslaughter risk factors associated with mortality and bruising in rabbits

M. Petracci, M. Bianchi, G. Biguzzi, C. Cavani


The aim of this study was to identify and quantify risk factors associated with the mortality and bruising rate prevalence in 975 commercial batches of growing rabbits delivered for slaughter. The effects of environmental temperature, batch size (number of rabbits delivered per batch), journey and lairage duration on dead on arrival (DOA) and bruising prevalence were investigated and expressed as an odds ratio (OR). This value is equivalent to the relative risk, assessing each specific factor relative to its reference category (OR=1). The overall mortality rate of 0.09% was affected by environmental temperature, batch size, journey and lairage duration. A significantly increased DOA risk was associated with very low (<7.3°C; OR=1.28) and very high (≥22.6°C; OR=1.85) environmental temperatures. In addition, a significantly higher odds ratio (OR=1.70) was observed in the largest batches (≥3681 rabbits). Both increasing journey and lairage duration dramatically increased the risk of death during the preslaughter period. Rabbits belonging to batches either transported or laired for a long time had a roughly threefold higher risk of death. The overall prevalence of bruise percentage was 2.13% and was affected by environmental temperature, batch size and journey duration. Environmental temperatures ranging from 7.3 to 12.4°C decreased the risk of bruising (OR=0.90), whereas temperatures from 17.5 to 22.6°C and higher than 22.6°C exhibited significantly higher OR values (1.22 and 1.34, respectively). Moreover OR values were higher for small (734 to 1716 rabbits; OR=1.21) and very small (<734 rabbits; OR=1.36) batches, but also for very large ones (≥3681; OR=1.10). As for journey time, transport duration from 308 to 411 min and longer than 411 min duration increased bruising risk (OR= 1.15 and 1.19, respectively), while this risk was slightly decreased (OR=0.96) for medium journey duration (205 to 308 min). In conclusion, even though average DOA and bruising rates were quite low compared with chickens and turkeys, further logistics and planning improvements should be made in batch harvesting to reduce transport and lairage duration as far as possible in conjunction with extremely low and high environmental temperatures.  


rabbits; mortality; bruising; preslaughter time; environmental temperature; batch size

Full Text:



Anil M.H., Raj A.B.M., Mckinstry J.L. 1998. Electrical stunning in commercial rabbits: effective currents, spontaneous physical activity and reflex behaviour. Meat Sci., 48: 21-28.

Anil M.H., Raj A.B.M., Mckinstry J.L. 2000. Evaluation of electrical stunning in commercial rabbits: effect on brain function. Meat Sci., 54: 217-220.

Bianchi M., Petracci M., Venturi L., Cremonini M.A., Cavani C. 2008. The influence of preslaughter fasting on carcass yield and meat quality in rabbits. In Proc.: 9th World Rabbit Congress, 10-13 June, 2008. Verona, Italy. 1313-1317.

Buil T., María G.A., Villarroel M., Liste G., Lopez M. 2004. Critical points in the transport of commercial rabbits to slaughter in Spain that could compromise animals’ welfare. World Rabbit Sci., 12: 269-279.

Canali C., Diverio S., Barone A., Dal Bosco A., Beghelli V. 2000. The effect of transport and slaughter on rabbits reared in two different production systems. In Proc.: 7th World Rabbit Congress, 4-7 July, 2000, Valencia, Spain. Vol. A.: 511-518.

Cavani C., Petracci M. 2004. Rabbit meat processing and traceability. In Proc.: 8th World Rabbit Congress, 7-10 September, 2004. Puebla, Mexico. 1318-1336.

Cavani C., Bianchi M., Petracci M. 2007. Relationship beetween transport and animal welfare in avian and rabbit species. Rapporti ISTISAN, 07/40: 35-45.

Cavani C., Petracci M., Trocino A., Xiccato G. 2009. Advances in research on poultry and rabbit meat quality. Ital. J. Anim. Sci., 8: 741-750.

Dal Bosco A., Castellini C., Bernardini M. 1997. Effect of transportation and stunning method on some characteristics of rabbit carcasses and meat. World Rabbit Sci., 5: 115-119.

De la Fuente J., Salazar M., Ibáñez M., González de Chavarri E. 2004. Effects of antemortem treatment and transport on slaughter characteristics of fryer rabbits. Anim. Sci., 78: 285-292.

De la Fuente J., Díaz M.T., Ibáñez M., González de Chavarri E. 2007. Physiological response of rabbits to heat, cold, noise and mixing in the context of transport. Anim. Welf., 16: 41-47.

EC. 2010. European Commission, DG Health and Consumers, Animal Health and Welfare, Animal Welfare during Transport. Available at: Accessed February 2010.

EFSA. 2004. The welfare of animals during transport. EFSA J., 44:136.

FAOSTAT. 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Available at: Accessed February 2010.

Fayez I., Marai M., Alnaimy A., Habeeb M. 1994 Thermoregulation in rabbits. Options Méditérrannéennes, 8: 33-41.

Finzi A., Verita P. 1980. Effect of transport on rabbit feeding behaviour. In Proc.: 2nd World Rabbit Congress, 16-18 April, 1980.Barcelona, Spain. 410-416.

Grandin T. 2007. Livestock Handling and Transport. (3rd Ed.). CABI Publishing, Wallingford, Oxon, UK.

Jolley P.D. 1990. Rabbit transport and its effects on meat quality. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 28: 119-134.

Lambertini L., Vignola G., Badiani A., Zaghini G., Formigoni A. 2006. The effect of journey time and stocking density during transport on carcass and meat quality in rabbits. Meat Sci., 72: 641-646.

Liste G., María G.A., García-Belenguer S., Chacón G., Gazzola P., Villarroel M. 2008. The effect of transport time, season and position on the truck on stress response in rabbits. World Rabbit Sci., 16: 229-235.

Liste G., Villarroel M., Chacón G., Sañudo C., Olleta J.L., GarcíaBelenguer S., Alierta S., María G.A. 2009. Effect of lairage duration on rabbit welfare and meat quality. Meat Sci., 82: 71-76.

Luzi F., Heinzl E., Crimella C., Verga M. 1992. Influence of transport on some production parameters in rabbits. J. Appl. Anim. Res., 15: 758-765.

María G.A., Buil T., Liste G., Villarroel M., Sañudo C., Olleta J.L. 2006. Effects of transport time and season on aspects of rabbit meat quality. Meat Sci., 72: 773-777.

María G.A., Liste G., Campo M.M., Villarroel M., Sañudo C., Olleta J.L., Alierta S. 2008. Influence of transport duration and season on sensory meat quality in rabbits. World Rabbit Sci., 16: 81-88.

Masoero G., Riccioni L., Bergoglio G., Napoletano F. 1992. Implications of fasting and of transportation for a high quality rabbit meat product. J. Appl. Rabbit Res., 15: 841-847.

Mazzone G., Vignola G., Giammarco M., Manetta A.C., Lambertini L. 2010. Effects of loading method on rabbit welfare and meat quality. Meat Sci., 85: 33-39.

Nanni Costa L. 2007. Importanza e conseguenze degli stress acuti: il caso del trasporto e della macellazione. In: Bertoni G. (Ed.). Il benessere degli animali da reddito: quale e come valutarlo. Fond. Iniz. Zoop. Zoot. Brescia, Italy. 105-116.

Nijdam E., Arens P., Lambooij E., Decuypere E., Stegeman J.A. 2004. Factors influencing bruises and mortality of broilers during catching, transport, and lairage. Poult. Sci., 83: 1610-1615.

Ouhayoun J., Lebas F. 1995. Effets de la diète hydrique, du transport et de l’attente avant l’abattage sur les composantes du rendement et sur les caractéristiques physicochimiques. Viandes et produits carnés, 16: 13-16.

Petracci M., Bianchi M., Cavani C., Gaspari P., Lavazza A. 2006. Preslaughter mortality in broiler chickens, turkeys, and spent hens under commercial slaughtering. Poult. Sci., 85: 1660-1664.

Petracci M., Bianchi M., Cavani C. 2008. A critical appraisal of rabbit preslaughter conditions in a commercial production chain. In Proc.: 9th World Rabbit Congress, 10-13 June, 2008. Verona, Italy. 14111415.

Petracci M., Bianchi M., Venturi L., Cremonini M.A., Cavani C. 2009. Effect of ante mortem journey and lairage at abattoir on rabbit meat quality. J. Muscle Foods, 20: 489-500.

Rota Nodari S., Lavazza A., Candotti P. 2009. Technical note: rabbit welfare during electrical stunning and slaughter at a commercial abattoir. World Rabbit Sci., 17: 163-167.

SAS. 1990. SAS/STAT User’s Guide. SAS Inst. Inc., Cary NC, USA.

Trocino A., Xiccato G., Queaque P.I., Sartori A. 2003. Effect of transport duration and gender on rabbit carcass and meat quality. World Rabbit Sci., 11: 32-43.

Verga M., Luzi F., Petracci M., Cavani C. 2009. Welfare aspects in rabbit rearing and transport. Ital. J. Anim. Sci., 8: 191-204.

Vignola G., Giammarco M., Mazzone G., Angelozzi G., Lambertini L. 2008. Effects of loading method and crate position on the truck on some stress indicators in rabbits transported to the slaughterhouse. In Proc.: 9th World Rabbit Congress, 10-13 June, 2008. Verona, Italy. 1257-1261.

Abstract Views

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


Cited-By (articles included in Crossref)

This journal is a Crossref Cited-by Linking member. This list shows the references that citing the article automatically, if there are. For more information about the system please visit Crossref site

1. Prevalence of post mortem lesions recorded in the largest Italian rabbit slaughterhouse over a fifteen-years period (2003-2017)
D. Conficoni, M. Cullere, N. Lago, L. Alberghini, T. Rossin, A. Dalle Zotte, V. Giaccone
World Rabbit Science  vol: 28  issue: 1  first page: 39  year: 2020  
doi: 10.4995/wrs.2020.11530


 Universitat Politècnica de València


Official journal of the World Rabbit Science Association (WRSA)


e-ISSN: 1989-8886     ISSN: 1257-5011