Rabbit farmers call on government to save industry

John and Margaret James from Macleay Valley Rabbits in 2010.
John and Margaret James from Macleay Valley Rabbits in 2010.  Photo: Macleay Argus

A favourite ingredient with TV food shows and upmarket restaurants, the once-ubiquitous rabbit is becoming so rare industry pundits fear the next generation may never taste it.

The impact of calicivirus, which the government introduced to help control wild rabbits, has been catastrophic for the farmed rabbit industry.

"We used to do 500 to 800 rabbits a week. Now we're about 100 a fortnight," says Margaret James, from the award-winning Macleay Valley Rabbits.

Baby Bunny isolated on white Isolated rabbit.
iStock image downloaded under the Good Food team account (contact ...
Baby Bunny isolated on white Isolated rabbit. iStock image downloaded under the Good Food team account (contact syndication for reuse permissions). Photo: chengyuzheng

"This isn't just us; it's rabbit farmers everywhere. A big one closed in Victoria," James says.

"We understand trying to eradicate wild rabbit; we just wanted access to and approval for a vaccine."

The veteran Macleay Valley rabbit operation, which was inducted into The Sydney Food Hall of Fame and supplied the top shelf of Sydney restaurants, is on its knees.

A major local supplier says he hasn't had a rabbit from them in months.

James says they've had to let staff go, and without government intervention their farmed rabbit won't survive.