Many people believe that when they buy rabbit in a grocery store or at a restaurant that the animal on their plate used to be one of those cute, but annoying creatures that eat the vegetables out of your backyard and breed like... well, rabbits.
However, the reality of the matter is, most rabbit meat sold in the UK was actually farmed rather than captured in the wild. In fact, the RSPCA estimates that 250,000 to one million rabbits are farmed for their meat every year in the UK.
The farms in which rabbits are slaughtered tend to be small-scale businesses as demand for rabbit meat does not even begin to approach that of other livestock. There are usually between 10 and 200 breading does (females) and the animals are kept in 8 to a 0.56 square meter cage, males and females usually separately.
The most shocking part of rabbit farming is the life span of the bunnies. The young bunnies are slaughtered for their meat at only 8 to 12 weeks of age or when they reach the weight of 2 kgs. The rabbits that are kept for breeding will remain until they reach 18 to 36 months of age before being killed.
Wild rabbits, however, are a constant problem in terms of their population; they have certainly never been close to extinction. In fact, there are entire businesses based around their eradication as they plague farmers and village dwellers.
Looking at this information it seems clear which type of rabbit you should be choosing to have for dinner. But what about the taste?
Farmed rabbit meat is cheaper, tender and mixes better with spices. But despite this and although they might be larger than their wild counterparts, farmed rabbits have pale meat more akin in appearance and taste to chicken - which defeats the purpose of buying rabbit meat in the first place.
Wild rabbit may be slightly more expensive than farmed, but actually tastes like rabbit with a subtle game flavour and are also much leaner than farmed rabbits. Also, by buying wild rabbit you would be discouraging the farming of rabbits and the energy it consumes when even better meat can be obtained without wasting resources.
So next time you feel like a meaty meal that is easy on the environment, go wild!