I know it sounds like the set-up for a bad joke. But milking rabbits has become a reality in the Netherlands and it may one day soon be coming to our shores as well.
Apparently the set up looks pretty much like a cow-milking operation, except on a smaller scale…with mini pumping machines.
Now if you’re wondering if you are going to see gourmet bunny cheese showing up on your grocery store shelves soon, the answer is “no.”
Bunnies are being milked for the drug trade
The milk is actually being gathered for a different purpose. The biotech industry is using the rabbits to produce a certain human protein that is then used to produce a—yes, you guessed it—drug.
Pharming, a biotech firm located in the Netherlands, has produced a warren of genetically engineered bunny rabbits that can produce up to 12 grams of a human protein called C1 inhibitor. The protein is then used to make an experimental drug that treats hereditary angioedema.
People with this condition don’t produce enough C1 inhibitor, which can lead to painful swelling, cramps, and even possible death through suffocation.
Milking animals for science & industry is nothing new
Surprisingly rabbits are not the first animals to be to be milked for science and industry. Russian mice have been milked to extract the protein lactoferrin. Goats have been genetically modified to produce large quantities of GMO milk, as well as to produce an artificial spider web silk that can be used in anything from bullet proof vests to parachute cords.
Rabbits however, reproduce…well… like rabbits and don’t require as much space as goats and other livestock so they’re fast becoming the darlings of biotech.
I don’t know about you but visions of thousands of bunnies hooked up to tiny milking machines leaves me feeling more than a little woozy.
For more dirt on what biotech and big agribusiness is up to these days check out The 2 Ways You Help Monsanto Every Day (Without Knowing It).