Updated: Apr 17
I have spoken to many of the American Rabbit Breeders Association's officers. Most of them have told me things like "Don't reinvent the wheel" (I don’t see any of these people using wagons) "If it ain't broke don't fix it" (I don’t see them fixing things that are broke either). I have pitched countless ideas which cost nothing and increase revenue for ARBA and increase the quality of life for rabbit and rabbit owners. I have been met with nothing short of condescension and disdain. Every single member of ARBA I have talked to wants change. Even if ARBA wanted to make drastic changes today it would take them a year to institute. ARBA has consistently devalued rabbit life over the decades and put themselves in a position to nickel and dime its members into following them in a monopoly over the only profitable industry of rabbit breeding.
There is a complex science to safely and ethically inbreed to reinforce traits or propagate new species called line breeding. Again ARBA has no formal education, least of which is "line breeding". So when people start breeding rabbits they are told that its ok to inbreed and usually prescribe close breeding (breeding closely related rabbits such as mother to son and father to daughter or in some cases siblings or half siblings). When inbreeding you can have no more than one instance per pedigree (4 generations) and you need 4 degrees of separation (basically the rabbits should be 4 generations apart). That combined with culling procedures (killing, eating or giving away rabbits that don't meet ARBA standards) will likely lead to the extinction of the domestic rabbit species.
I am creating The International Rabbit Breeders Coalition (TIRBC) as an alternative to their organization in order to address many of the issues ARBA has created or ignored. I found a Rabbitry selling inbred rabbit siblings as breeding pairs to other beginning rabbitries. When I approached them and offered to help rectify this issue they turned me away and lied to their customers stating that the rabbits were not related despite the pedigrees indicating otherwise Furthermore the pedigree indicated that not only were the rabbits inbred so were their ancestors. The sold breeding pair were cousins, half siblings, and aunt/nephew. They were related on at least 3 different counts. This can result in any number of issues for the rabbits before during or after breeding. When I brought this to the attention of the District 9 Director of ARBA Johnny Haussener he said:
We aren't the police. We can't enforce anything.
He went on to say that tackling these issues was like "beating a dead horse". He said if there's an issue inform the local vet, but unless they are sitting in a pile of their own shit nobody is going to do anything about it. This was Lop Lolly Rabbitry of Crouse, NC. I've cleaned up two rabbitries directly affected by this atrocity.
In another instance a local rabbit breeder is selling rabbits that don't fit into the standards of perfection to local feed stores. This normally wouldn't be an issue except that the rabbit breeder is inbreeding. So a nice couple buys a little dutch rabbit and a year later the rabbit develops issues. $5000 in vet expenses later it was determined that the rabbit was inbred and wouldn't have survived more than a year anyway due to multiple organ complications. This family lost their cherished pet, a significant amount of resources and is now traumatized. The District 6 Director Jim Rowland told me this:
Veterinarians kill rabbits
Jim Rowland believes that not only are antibiotics toxic to rabbits (most antibiotics which are tested on rabbits before going to human trials), but vets are directly responsible for the death of the rabbit through negligence. This is not only not true, but also contributing to the reason rabbits don't get veterinary care.
Rabbits are not considered livestock by the FDA, but they are considered exotic species despite being raised in the US for over 100 years. This increases the cost of rabbit care. I am currently working with a number of organizations to switch rabbits from exotic to small animal veterinary care, decreasing the cost and increasing the availability of medical care to rabbits. Exotic vets are hard to find and can be elusive to get appointments with. They stay booked up and they aren't common place or staffed full time at most vet clinics.
Seely's Ark used to be a commercial rabbit breeder out of Dunnellon, FL that distributed rabbit meat to the Publix grocer in Florida until they were shut down for having deplorable and unethical living conditions for rabbits. The lifespan of their does was 2 years because they were bred continuously until they died. Rabbits live between 8-14 years depending on species. They lost 3/4 of their life to this industry. They were also left outside under an overhang in suspended wire cages year round without accommodations for the summer heat. Temperatures over 80 degrees is too hot for rabbits and over 85 degrees can kill them. Again this is one of many examples of poor conditions for rabbits in the commercial industry. Commercial rabbit farmers are cheap and because the value of meat is so low they don't want to spend money to make livable conditions for these animals.
A lot of the rabbit industry is controlled by the boomer generation and they are getting too old to take care of their rabbits. Since the rabbits aren't worked with or given any care they become feral. I have to tell all my customers that if they get a rabbit from a meat rabbit farm you have to treat it like a rescue that's been abused or neglected. The rabbits will be so scared they will run away from you and hurt themselves trying to escape human touch in fear. These soft cuddly intelligent and amazing animals have never experienced love before. Witnessing it first hand I feel anguish (a combination of intense anger and sadness, it indicates intense physical mental or emotional pain). These animals deserve better.
ARBA is in violation of their constitution and their 501(c)(3) non-profit tax exemption purpose of being. They formed tasked with the responsibility of controlling the rabbit and cavy industries and regulating them providing educational opportunities. But no one is being educated, no one is being controlled or regulated, and no one is being punished for abuse of these animals. Furthermore I have brought these issues to leadership and with creative and efficient solutions and still nothing is being done.
Getting rid of a few members in ARBA won't fix this ongoing problem. The organization needs dissolved and replaced by an organization that actually cares about rabbits and rabbit owners. All of the leadership needs banned from the rabbit keeping community for their atrocities and a new administration willing to assist the TIRBC needs installed.
I have lots of evidence to support my claims and this is only the beginning. I am filing for my 501(c)(3) for TIRBC and I will replace ARBA in less than 3 years. TIRBC offers free membership, free sanctions for specialty clubs, no renewal fees, free breeder listings, better pay and benefits for employees registrars and judges, dual enrollment for all ARBA members, free pedigrees and forms and files for helping individuals managing their rabbitries, free consultations, grants for education medical expenses and research and development, and much more. ARBA is an exclusive club that recognizes ~50 breeds of rabbits and a handful of varieties. TIRBC recognizes all 305 breeds of domestic rabbit, 29+ species of undomesticated rabbit and hares, and mixed breed rabbits. All rabbits are showable. Anyone can be a member whether or not you own a rabbit. Classes are offered for a fee for all new rabbit owners or breeders to fully educate you on domestic rabbit care. PETA members are also offered free concurrent enrollment in this organization to show support for the other animal industries at risk. Full pedigrees are not required to show. The only expense is rabbit registration to be eligible to show. Rabbit shows and competitions will have cash prizes as well as awards. TIRBC is currently consulting experts in every field of rabbit raising including rabbit based Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). These experts will help set new standards, pay scales and much more. All these products improvements ideas and much more are the patented intellectual property of Alex Hedgecock of Superior Rabbitry. But the purpose is to make the information you need to be the best rabbit owner you can be free, up to date and readily available. At this time TIRBC only covers the Order Lagomorpha and the families Leporid and Leporidae (hares and rabbits respectively) and cavies are not included for the time being. If you have any questions feel free to contact me through the website and I will do my best to assist you.
Most people, even within ARBA, cannot afford to use raising rabbits as a sole source of income. It’s a hobby or a side hustle to them. I am a retired combat vet that served in operation enduring freedom in Afghanistan. I served my country with distinction and I am a 100% service connected disabled vet. This is my profession. I know just about everything about domestic rabbits and if you know more than me I want you to teach me. I want change and I’m not waiting another year for something to “maybe” be done. Millions of rabbits are at risk and the planet is at risk if we lose them. Help me save them.
Thank you for your time and support in rectifying this colossal injustice.