This is a heated question among people who love rabbits as pets and those who raise them for profit. It becomes a very charged issue that radically divides the two kinds of people who keep bunnies.
I do not think anyone would argue that the bunnies who are farmed and those who are kept as pets are the same exact creature. One simply had the misfortune of being born as fodder for humans and the other was born into a world where he/she was thought of as a pet.
It amazes me the total dichotomy between the two. I think that regardless of which side of the fence you are sitting, you have to admit that it is perfectly OK for people to keep domestic rabbits as pets. Most people do not realize the smart and interactive pet that a bunny is, when kept indoors with the family. A half million rabbit lovers cannot all be crazy.
Rabbits are clearly the third most popular pet nationwide, after dogs and cats (as evidence they are also the third most euthanized animal in shelters). While their percentage of the pet market remains small, it is growing fast.
The problem arises when as in California, where pet rabbits are still classified as livestock, just as the bunnies raised for meat on a farm. Certainly, our society affords life without abuse or torture to all animals and most of all animals kept as pets. I think most people would agree that to cause an animal to suffer needlessly, whether you were going to eat it or not, is not something we want to condone as a society.
We have made it known through our modern laws exactly what animal abuse is. Unfortunately, most of these statues applies mostly to dogs. They may not be tied to a tree or kept inside a too small cage or crate all day. Why is it OK to put a bunny inside a tiny cage 24/7? Is it just because he is still considered livestock? Does that make it OK, especially in light of the fact that bunnies were literally born to run and hop? How could a rabbit not be frustrated and unhappy unable to do the one thing that he was meant to do?
As our country becomes more and more urban, the number of rabbits living on a farm is dwindling. Where as virtually all rabbits raised 50 or 100 years ago were meant to be eaten, now a very large percentage of them are pets from birth. The trend is for the number of lagomorph pets to increase and the number on farms is going down. It is time for a shift in the public attitude.
Since rabbits are still considered “livestock” in our state, it does not have the same requirement that they be spayed/neutered before being adopted out of a Humane Society or shelter, like dogs or cats do. This is ludicrous. Thankfully our local chapter of the House Rabbit Society insures that every rabbit being adopted at every shelter is done. This is not always the case in other areas.
Our leaders need to establish a clear line between farm livestock and our beloved pets. Humane treatment for rabbits is currently laughed at by many parts of the public. That needs to change.
My personal opinion,
The Bunny Guy