More than 85,000 people have signed a petition calling to refuse plans for an intensive rabbit meat farm in a Bucks village.

Phil Kerry, of T&S Nurseries, submitted plans to build a temporary rural worker’s house and agricultural building on land in Magpie Lane, in Coleshill, near Amersham.

The house will allow a worker to be on site as a 250-doe, free-range rabbit production unit is developed over the next three years.

The rabbit farm will occupy around two acres of the site.

The plans have prompted outrage, including from Marlow resident and animal lover Ricky Gervais who backed the petition and branded the plans “outrageous”, as well as campaign group Animal Aid.

Hundreds of objections have been submitted to the formal plans on the planning portal.

Rebecca Nicholson, who lives in the village, set up the petition saying she believes “rabbit farming has no place in the 21st Century”.

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Ms Nicholson spoke out about the issue on BBC Three Counties Radio on Wednesday (April 28), saying the response to her petition had been “amazing”.

'Third most popular pet in the UK'

She told presenter Andy Collins: “I live in the village and have a pet rabbit. I do not believe rabbits are meat.

“They are the third most popular pet in the UK. It’s pretty much like saying I’m going to eat cats and dogs now. There is no demand for rabbit meat in this day and age.

“I started the petition because I thought this should not be happening.”

Speaking about the petition, she added: “Everyone in our village and everyone I know doesn’t want this to happen. I thought it would get a few hundred signatures, but we’ve had over 80,000.

“I didn’t expect this to happen, the response has been amazing.

“In this day and age with so many people becoming vegetarian or vegan, there just isn’t a demand for [rabbit meat].

“You can’t walk into a pet shop and buy a cow or a pig or a chicken – but you can buy rabbits. I believe they are pets and not for meat.”

'A huge demand for rabbit meat'

But Mr Kerry, who was also invited on the breakfast show, rubbished Ms Nicholson’s claims there was “no demand” for rabbit meat.

He said: “There’s a huge demand for rabbit meat. Since the petition and the exposure we’ve had in the press in recent weeks, we’ve had more enquiries for rabbit meat than we’ve had in the past three or four years.

“The rabbit you get in pet shops are completely different to those bred for meat. That is incorrect that they’re not suitable for meat. They were bred for meat going back to medieval times, in fact.”

Speaking about residents’ concerns about the animals’ welfare, he said there would be “plenty of space” on the farm for them to run around and the hutches used for kindling mothers – rabbits giving birth – are bigger than the guidelines set by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs “in terms of height width and length”.

He added: “The mothers that kindle [give birth] cannot be allowed out as the deaths of the young would be too great.

“They have to be kept in these hutches, so [the mother] doesn’t walk away too far from her young.”

He also said he was “not at all concerned” about the number of people against the farm, saying: “There are over five million people living in south-west England, Rebecca’s got 80,000 – it’s not very good.

“It’s very easy to cajole friends, neighbours, family into signing something people are indifferent to. These people aren’t hardline.”

ALSO READ: 'Unacceptable': Animal rights group slams plans for rabbit meat farm in village

He also told listeners his farms are inspected by local authorities to ensure animal welfare.

Buckinghamshire Council is expected to make a decision on the Coleshill plans by May 11.

See the proposals in full at using reference PL/21/0130/FA.

The petition can be found at