Rabbits fast burrowing into chicken markets post-avian flu

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Agartala, June 11 : As India's poultry industry tries hard to undo the scare caused by a second outbreak of bird flu, poultry farmers in Tripura have taken up rabbit farming and are reaping the benefits.

The consecutive outbreaks of bird flu have forced people to take to rabbit farming.

In fact, rabbit farmers contend the demand for the soft meat has witnessed increase post bird flu.

With bird flu taking a toll on the Indian poultry industry, low cholesterol rabbit meat is in high demand and is substituting chicken in the state.

"Earlier, rabbits were found in the wild but with the destruction of the forests their population has vanished. But after the outbreak of bird flu, we started rearing rabbits in farms and found that it is profitable. Many people do not prefer chicken meat these days, instead rabbit meat is being preferred," said Tapas Debbarma, a rabbit farmer.

The farmers maintain that rabbit farming involves low cost investment as rabbits are highly prolific in nature and can be reared in small kitchen gardens or even in backyards.

They say that rabbit farming is a very viable venture since apart from the meat, the farmers also rear wool and the hide of the rabbits.

Experts say that rabbit farming requires specialized training and technical skills as the animal is very delicate, but these farmers seem to have gained expertise.

"We feed the rabbits with banana leaves and it is not costly to run a rabbit farm. The returns are also good," said Kishore Debbarma, another rabbit farmer.

Rabbit meat is considered a delicacy and is exported to several countries in the Middle East also.

Rabbit farming in India is of recent origin. While rabbit farming had proliferated hilly states of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh around two years back, in Tripura, it has been introduced only this year and is becoming popular among farmers.

Rabbit rearing is a valuable means of livelihood for many families in the rural area as it is not capital intensive and the animals thrive on kitchen waste and farm by-products.

The livestock industry, which has been reeling under the impact of the frequent outbreaks of bird flu is now banking on rabbit farming.

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