When starting rabbit farming, make sure you have an abattoir that can humanely slaughter your rabbits.
Before starting to breed rabbits commercially (and not just for home consumption) it is important to establish a market for your product. There are no co-operative bodies in South Africa that can do this for you unless you are a contracted farmer to a large consortium such as Coniglio.
There are very few registered abattoirs in South Africa and once you are breeding to sell meat, you have to use an abattoir to ensure "good practice" and traceability - to know where a product comes from.
Most chicken abattoirs can be used for rabbit slaughter, but ensure that you have a facility before starting to breed your rabbits.
Farmers are permitted to slaughter for home consumption but check your area’s by-laws for additions requirements as South Africa has very strict rules relating to the slaughter of livestock.
Each province and local area has its own set of rules and, therefore, it is very important to ensure that you know the requirements in your area. The NSPCA and SABS are currently formulating Best Farming Practice rules pertaining to rabbits to ensure the welfare of all farmed rabbits.
Handle rabbits selected for slaughter gently and with respect. An animal that is frightened at the moment of slaughter tenses its muscles and the meat is unnecessarily tough.
How To Slaughter a Rabbit
Although the best method is to use an electric humane killer, those suitable for rabbits are not readily available locally and are often too expensive for a small operation.
The method described here assumes that the person doing the slaughtering is right-handed and that the pelt (fur) will be kept for tanning. The method below will ensure that the head will be removed from the body and either skinned separately for eating or discarded as offal.
Place the rabbit on a table with its head facing your left and make sure it is flat and steady. Place your left hand over its face and eyes, then push your thumb and index finger between the ears to part them and press them out of the way.
Using a short, blunt, heavy instrument (baton) in your right hand, apply a sharp blow to the head behind the ears, not the neck. In this way, the small brain is fatally injured and death is almost instantaneous.
After the blow, the rabbit will kick violently as part of its death throes. To deal with this you should immediately discard the baton to firmly grasp the rabbit by its waist with your right hand, lifting its rear off the table. At the same time slip your left hand up to take the rabbit's neck.
Now that you have the carcass under control you should hold the head over a bowl to catch the blood flow from its nose. However, not every blow ruptures the internal blood vessels and to drain the carcass of blood these rabbits should have their throats cut.
© Karoline Steenekamp