The agriculture department said rabbit meat may be a nutritious alternative to pork in light of the pandemic's problems and the potential of African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks in the hog business.

Rabbit farmers in Palawan have joined a nationwide campaign for the Department of Agriculture (DA) to hasten the issuance of rabbit slaughter rules in order to bolster the industry.

The Palawan Rabbit Producers Cooperative (PRPC) said that they are anticipating the release of standards on rabbit slaughter in order to take measures toward growing the industry, notably in meat production and distribution.

Joe Ibañez, head of the PRPC and one of six Palaweños who are members of the Association of Rabbit Meat Producers (ARaMP), said this as the DA recently recognized their work in advancing the rabbit meat industry in the country. ARaMP is the Philippines’ national association of rabbit meat producers.

Previously, DA Sec. William Dar directed the DA-Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) and Director Reildrin Morales to boost rabbit production and distribution for meat consumption and livelihood purposes, citing its potential as a meat alternative.

“Masaya kami sa statement na ‘yan – kinilala ni Sec. Dar ang effort ng ARaMP as a whole under leadership ni sir Art Veneracion. Ang effort ng aming association, ‘yong association din ang nag-initiate ng rabbit industry. Masaya kami na kinilala niya—isang napakagandang karangalan o works done ng secretary na na-appreciate niya ang effort ng association namin,” he said.

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Ibañez said ARaMP initiated the crafting of guidelines and requested the government, particularly the National Meat Inspection Services (NMIS) and Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS), to formalize the standards.

As a member of ARaMP, the PRPC was included as a part of the technical working group in formulating the standards of rabbit slaughter, he explained.

The standard will be used in the slaughterhouse to ensure the safety of rabbit meat. It will also be helpful for them to supply for institutional buyers.

“Ongoing na ‘yan pero dahil noon hindi pa nakikita nila talaga ang need pero ngayon nakikita na ng DA, ni Sec. Dar mismo na talagang hindi na ito mapigilan itong industriya ng pagra-rabbit,” he said.

The DA, through Dar, said that it will support ARaMP’s efforts for the growth of the local rabbit industry.

The BAI will aid in the formulation of appropriate guidelines and will support the sector, which is still in its development.

The agriculture department said rabbit meat may be a nutritious alternative to pork in light of the pandemic’s problems and the potential of African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks in the hog business.

Ibañez noted that the group’s urgent cooperation is required to set the parameters they believe are critical to reviving the business throughout the country.

“Kasi ‘yong guidelines na ‘yon ang magsasabi kung anong pwedeng gawin kapag mag-slaughter at slaughterhouse. Ngayon may nagsa-slaughter sa kaniya-kaniyang backyard, mga household pero kailangan namin ‘yong slaughterhouse talaga na kung saan para ‘yong institutional buyers tulad ng hotel ay maserbisyuhan natin, mga airline companies,” he said.

Based on their previous meetings, the guidelines might be released around the first or second quarter of 2022, he said. After the release of guidelines, a model slaughterhouse will be constructed in Bulacan where the ARaMP office is located. Once constructed, it will also be replicated by different organizations and chapters in provinces, he added.

Ibañez said that one of the struggles in convincing the public to consume rabbit meat is due to the mindset that the animal is only intended for pet raising.

“Nagkaka-problema ngayon ‘yong ibang nagra-rabbit dahil unang-una, nag-rabbit sila na hindi nila alam ang purpose nila. Alam nila ay magra-rabbit lang sila at ibibenta. Hindi nila pina-practice ang pagkain ng rabbit kaya ‘yong iba, meron kami nababalitaan na huminto na sa pagra-rabbit, ang ginagawa para makabenta sila ay binabagsak nila ang presyo ng kuneho which is kukwentahin mo naman ay luging-lugi rin sila,” he said.

DA’s assistance will help educate the people, especially in Palawan, about the potential of rabbits as a source of meat for consumption. It is also useful in times of pandemic in urban farming.

“Pwede naman ito kainin at mas madaling alagaan kahit sa city lalong-lalo na sa panahon natin ngayon. Hindi naman lingid sa sitwasyon natin ngayon na nasa mahigpit na sitwasyon tayo ng kahirapan ng buhay. Kung iko-cpmpare mo ang rabbit sa manok, mas madaling alagaan ang rabbit lalo na diyan sa urban farming, sa city, ang rabbit ay walang kaingay-ingay,” he said.

“Iyon ang magandang opportunity sa atin, it’s a matter lang ng mindset siguro sa farmers na mag-shift na rin. Subukan na kumain,” he added.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.