Rabbit Awareness Week (10th May – 18th May 2014) is a national event that seeks to educate the public about rabbits and raise welfare standards. The event falls in Spring, a time we associate with images of cute baby bunnies bouncing on lush green grass.
Sadly, this notion is a far cry from the thousands of rabbits cruelly used in research each year. Latest statistics show that in the UK during 2012, 13,866 experiments were carried out on 10,538 rabbits.
Included in these statistics, there were 595 skin irritation tests and 712 Draize eye irritation tests. In the eye version of the test, rabbits are placed in restraining stocks, their eyelids are pulled apart, and the substance is dripped, sprayed or rubbed into the eye. The rabbits are then observed in order to determine whether or not irritation occurs. After three weeks they are either killed or, if there is no permanent damage to the eye, reused after a 'wash-out' period.
In the similarly horrific skin test, test substances are typically rubbed into the shaved backs of rabbits to check for the severity of the reaction over a period of two weeks, before they are killed or 'washed out' and reused.
There are non-animal alternative tests for both versions of the Draize test which have been validated and accepted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). There is no need for any rabbit to suffer in these cruel and painful tests.
2012 also saw a 9% increase in in the archaic and controversial pyrogenicity test, even though this test has been deleted from most regulatory requirements. A BUAV investigation at a UK contract testing facility, Wickham Laboratories, graphically exposed the suffering inflicted on these sensitive animals during these cruel tests - rabbits can be starved of food for up to 30 hours and then restrained by their necks in “stocks” for at least six hours and injected with the test substance into an ear vein. Their temperature is recorded using a thermometer inserted as much as 7.5cm into their rectum.
Here are some recent examples of experiments that also graphically illustrate the terrible suffering inflicted on rabbits to:
BUAV’s Chief Executive, Michelle Thew says: “It is unacceptable that many thousands of rabbits continue to be used in UK laboratories each year. During Rabbit Awareness Week we ask that people stop and consider the plight of these sweet animals who continue to suffer and die in experiments. Please support the BUAV to end this cruelty.”