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Rabbits

Rabbits and hares bred for their meat are sourced in countries where local consumption is a tradition.

The main producing countries are located in Europe and China. To ensure farmers, retailers and consumers are sufficiently informed about the origin of products and the conditions in which they were produced, SGS has launched the Responsible Animal Welfare and Identity Preservation (RAWIP) Standard for Rabbit Meat, Fur, Skins and Hair.

In an era when retailers and consumers demand evidence of responsible sourcing, RAWIP offers independent, third party assessment of all aspects of animal rearing. Created to improve the welfare of animals at the same time as providing evidence of responsible sourcing, the standard also incorporates traceability of meat from breeding and farming, through transport and slaughterhouses to processing.

Today, EU rabbit meat production is estimated to be around 520,000 TEC (tonnes in carcass weight equivalent) annually and is concentrated in Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Spain and France, which together produce 76% of the EU total. This means that approximately 260 million rabbits are farmed for meat production in the EU. The RAWIP standard refers to best practices where the industry is prosperous, as these locations have the means and interest. Internationally, the largest producer of rabbit products is the People’s Republic of China. The technical guidance is applied and desired as in Europe, to achieve better meat and by-products.

Seven Standard Categories

While the focus of this article is on farming and animal welfare, the RAWIP standard covers seven categories and all by-products, from farm to factory, including:

  1. Farm and farm animals multiplication
  2. Transporters
  3. Slaughter
  4. Pre-tanneries
  5. Tanneries
  6. Traders, warehouses and assemblers
  7. Yarn factories

Applications for certification from farm and farm animal multiplication businesses will need to meet the requirements of the standard’s animal welfare and chain of custody modules.

Animal Welfare Module

Dealing with conditions on the farm and the conditions in which animals are bred, this module covers:

  • Staffing
  • Inspection
  • Record keeping
  • Freedom of movement
  • Buildings and accommodation
  • Health of animals and veterinary care
  • Feed & water
  • Breeding
  • General requirements – Good Agricultural Practices – Legal

Chain of Custody Module

The RAWIP chain of custody module verifies and guarantees that from the point of entry to the supply chain, through all stages of transportation and production to the final product, an item’s origin and identity is known and documented. From the farm to the end product, the chain of custody preserves the identity of materials. This approach helps to ensure transparency and traceability.

Standard References

Laws and regulations vary by country. For the purpose of this standard, SGS has used:

  • The present directives of the European Community
  • The guidance of the publication of the code of animal welfare of production of rabbits under the Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentacion y Medio Ambiente MAGRAMA (Ministry of Agriculture, Nutrition and Environment of Spain) and under the direct responsibility of INTERCUN, in collaboration and with the technical execution of the study by the Universitat Politecnica de Valencia IVIA dated May 2012
  • The UK’s Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB0080) Department of Environment for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

Should local best practices be available that exceed those used in the RAWIP standard, they shall be considered in addition to laws and directives.

Certification

For certification against the RAWIP standard, SGS conducts an independent third-party audit of a farm/farmer’s Animal Welfare Policy and Quality Management System. Supply chain verification is an integral part of the process. It demonstrates that products produced in accordance with the Animal Welfare Policy are traceable.

The certification process involves an on-site audit of policies, processes and management systems. The auditor will review the organization’s plans, procedures, policies, physical conditions and records, and observes their implementation on-site. Any non-conformances are documented and at the end of the audit the site will be notified. To achieve certification the organization is required to correct all non-conformances and to prevent their recurrence.

The certification body (SGS) reviews the auditors report and decides whether to accept the evidence or request a resubmission. In some circumstances, the standard describes and requires a further visit to verify closure of non-conformances. The final decision on certification rests not with the auditor, but with an individual within the certification body who was not involved with the audit or the site, thereby ensuring the independence of the RAWIP standard. Ongoing certification is validated by annual surveillance audits.

Certification against this standard also includes the verification of legal requirements. However, it does not substitute compliance with any regulation in force.

Stakeholder Input

To develop this standard, an in-depth evaluation of the rabbit and hare supply was undertaken and the final document is based on this and on input received from stakeholders, supply chain members, farmers, farming organizations, brands and industry experts, as well as information based on European legislation, organizations and industrial associations. Considerations were made in relation to the different species of rabbit and hare.

Looking beyond food safety, which a range of other standards and certification schemes cover, and focusing on animal welfare, the RAWIP standard helps farmers in the rabbit and hare meat supply chain to operate in accordance with common animal welfare principles.

Animal Welfare – Five Freedoms

Commonly, animal welfare is defined by five ‘freedoms’, sometimes known as Brambell’s Five Freedoms, which are a compact of rights for animals under human control, including those intended for food (and by-products). Originally developed from a UK government report on livestock husbandry in 1965, the five freedoms have been adopted by representative groups, including the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

They are:

  1. Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor
  2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  4. Freedom to express (most) normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind
  5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering

Though these freedoms may seem rather general, countries have built on these concepts to further define animal welfare through directives and the application of laws.

SGS Services

With an extensive global network of auditors and certification experts, SGS can deliver audit and assessment against the RAWIP standard worldwide.

For the complete range of SGS services and support visit SGS Food Safety page.

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For further information, please contact:

Bruno Widmer
Business Development Manager
t: +41 22 739 94 68