T&S Rabbits farm which has been on the radar of animal rights activists is finally shutting its doors for good.

A business that breeds rabbits for meat is closing its remaining farm and handing over 250 rabbits to activists. Comedian Ricky Gervais is among those to have spoken out against T&S Rabbits, which activists claim has used a legal loophole to breed rabbits for fur.

An archived page from its website shows it advertised rabbit fur products for sale as recently as March. However, the owner told the BBC there were never any sales and that his meat business was completely legal.

Philip Kerry said he was closing his farm in East Bridgford, in Nottinghamshire, following repeated protests, and claimed some of his property had been vandalised. “The activists have picked on us, a tiny rabbit farm, when there are between five and eight thousand tonnes [of rabbit meat] coming in from Italy, Belgium and France,” he said. “There are factory farms there with great big barns. Our rabbits mainly live as free range, they are not penned up like those rabbit factories in Europe.”

Defending his business, Mr Kerry said eating rabbits was no different from eating other animals. “Lambs are still animals, and ducks, and turkeys, and chickens, and pigs, they are all animals,” he said. “Rabbit farms are not illegal in the UK. They should lobby government to make it illegal if they have a problem with it.”

The Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000 states it is an offence to keep animals in England solely or primarily for slaughter for the value of their fur. However, it is legal to breed rabbits for meat then sell the fur as a by-product.

Products formerly advertised on the T&S Rabbits website included £275 rabbit fur handbags, £200 rabbit fur scarves, £160 rabbit fur cushions, rabbit fur hats from £60 to £130, and £600 rabbit fur body warmers.

However Anne Wright, who has run T&S Rabbits in East Bridgford for three years, told the BBC in July that the farm was not involved in selling the rabbits’ fur. “If the fur is any good it does go away but we don’t have anything to do with that, it’s up to the butcher,” she said.

Members of the campaign group, called Shut Down T&S Rabbits, are due to collect the animals on Saturday morning. They will be taken to rescue centres and eventually rehomed. A spokesperson told the BBC they had seen reports of property damage but their group had been protesting using legal means only.

“There’s a lot of people all over the country who care deeply about these rabbits and there are many different ways people have engaged with this campaign and the mission to free the T&S rabbits,” said the spokesperson.

The group said it targeted T&S Rabbits because Mr Kerry had been running some of the last farms of their kind in the UK. “A lot of the people who’ve been fighting for these rabbits are vegans. That said, rabbits are an animal that most people in this country see as pets or wildlife, not meat and fur,” the spokesperson said.

Ricky Gervais, who does not eat meat, was among thousands of people who signed petitions against three proposed T&S Rabbits farms in Cornwall, Rutland and Buckinghamshire. “Britain doesn’t need rabbit meat and fur farms, we don’t need to find new ways to exploit animals for our stomachs or our wardrobes,” he said at the time. Mr Gervais is one of the celebrity supporters of the Fur Free Britain campaign, which calls for a UK ban on the import and sale of fur.

Mr Kerry said three other rabbit farms he owned had already closed for various reasons. These were at Atlow in Derbyshire, Granby in Nottinghamshire, and Hambleton in Rutland. “We are not breeding any more rabbits,” he said. “We are retiring from the rabbit farms.”

Humane Society International, an animal protection charity, has welcomed the closure of the farm. Executive director Claire Bass said: “It’s not clear how or where the rabbits are killed, but we know from documenting the slaughter of rabbits in other countries, that this can be a highly stressful and frightening experience for these sensitive creatures. We hope that these exploited rabbits will soon recover in the care of the shelters coming to their rescue, and be adopted into loving families.”

Original source: https://www.bbc.com