Rabbit producers to develop code of practice

National standards will help establish good handling practices and ensure quality of life for animals

Canadian rabbit producers are developing their first code of practice through a process established by the National Farm Animal Care Council.

Members of the committee that will develop the rabbit code were scheduled to have their first meeting March 19-20. It will be ready by fall 2017 if all goes according to the NFACC plan.

“At this point we have nothing, so this is a big step,” said Ontario Rabbit president Michelle Sanders.

“We’ve never had a code of practice. This isn’t an update. This is starting from scratch.”

Rabbit producers approached the council about developing a code several years ago. The process was launched once funding was in place, with the Quebec rabbit organization taking the lead.

Quebec rabbit producer Maxime Tessier said in a news release that the code is an important step.

“The development of this code is an excellent opportunity for Canada’s rabbit sector to come together and establish a national standard that ensures a good quality of life for rabbits raised in Canada.”

Codes of practice are guidelines for the care and handling of farm animals. They contain requirements as well as recommendations on how species of livestock should be managed.

The council has completed seven code updates in the last six years, including beef cattle, dairy cattle and hogs.

Sanders said a code for rabbits is needed to protect producers against accusations of improper handling and to help new entrants understand what is required and expected.

“It would make people feel more comfortable about starting if we had a code,” she said.

Other countries have codes of practice for rabbits, and council general manager Jackie Wepruk said those would be examined as part of the process for a Canadian model.

“We always need to keep in mind that these are codes for Canadian producers in Canadian environments, and so it needs to be applicable to a Canadian situation,” she said.

“It’s a good starting point to use those other codes … but we also have to make sure that we’re applying it in a way that works for Canadian situations.”

The council has also recently under-taken an update to the veal calves code of practice, which is projected for completion in fall 2017.

Five codes are in various stages of development, said Wepruk.

The bison code is being updated, while a code for chickens, turkeys and hatching eggs and another for layer hens are being revised.

“So far everything is moving along really well,” said Wepruk.

“We’ve adjusted the public comment period for the poultry code related to the meat birds, so we’ve moved that code back by a couple of months, but it’s still expected that we’re going to meet our overall timelines.”

The livestock transport code will likely to be next on the list for update, which Wepruk said could be complex.

“We recognize that that’s a priority one,” she said. “It’s just a matter of figuring out how to manage a code that has so many groups that need to be involved.”

The livestock transport code was last updated in 2001.

Wepruk said about 30 people were on the committee for that update, but it still didn’t represent all interested stakeholders.

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