With all my conflicting feelings about bunny breeding versus rescue, I've been thinking a lot about a farm/rescue model like Homestead Wool and Gift Farm, but with rabbits. It's a really interesting concept and seems like a great compromise in many ways. Not that I have a huge problem with "traditional" sheep farmers, but I have felt really good about buying wool and alpaca from Sandy because of the emphasis on the animals and producing animal-friendly fiber.
This wouldn't happen right away, it would be something I'd work toward over time. Besides building a rabbitry to house these bunz, there are some issues that I'd have to think through and work out, like...
I'd have to house bunnies outside, since I'm already full up on the porch. I don't have a problem with this, but the regular bunny rescues obviously do. So the bunnies I would get would tend to come from breeders who end up with too many, just like Prissy, Cosset and Junior did. Rescues don't tend to get that many angoras anyway, and the ones they get seem to be placed easily, so this seems ok to me.
I am not interested in dealing with the additional controls and legalities around running a rescue. Too much bullshit and politics. I'm not sure if advertising that one does rabbit rescue means that one becomes subject to Department of Ag rules for rescues, and how those regs differ from rabbitries and farms generally. That won't be hard to find out. I suspect most rescues form nonprofits just for the PR, tax benefits, etc., more than any other reasons. I'll have to think about this more, but I don't see why that would be preferable in this case. It would be simpler to maintain a for-profit farm with other people's leftover bunnies.
It is likely that I could end up with too many rabbits because I'm never good at turning away animals. This is just something I'd have to manage carefully and have good boundaries in place - which is much harder than it sounds. I could re-home rabbits though, maybe, or offer temporary housing for rabbits en route to new homes.
There's also the fact that rescued angoras may mean inferior fiber. When looked at from the perspective of serving a purpose, all animals are not created equal. Clearly, angoras coming from good breeders and solid bloodlines can have far superior fiber, temperaments, and health. Hopefully, you know what you're getting if you go to a knowledgeable breeder. Not so much with giveaway bunnies. Could I limit the rabbits I take in to those with "good enough" fiber? Doubtful. Are spinners likely to be just as happy with lower-grade fiber from rescue rabbits? Also doubtful (although it's still likely to be better than commercially-raised angora from China).
This model also probably would mean dealing with a lot more health problems, and temperament issues, than with a stable breeding population. I'm not sure of this - I may be making too much of it. But it seems likely that many people would get rid of rabbits when they have wool block or other issues, and also that it's likely that I'll be dealing with a lot of older bunnies. I don't know much about contagious disease in rabbits - I don't think it's nearly the kind of risk that it is with dogs, but there are some maladies that can wipe out an entire rabbitry. I've also never been sure how to think about vet care in relation to farm populations. Farmers almost never vet animals the same as the standards we have become accustomed to for companion pets (shelters either - that's why they call it "shelter medicine"). Farmers and breeders learn most of the usual stuff and take care of it themselves and beyond that, it just isn't economically feasible. I'm not sure how I'll be able to deal with that.
As an aside: It was once explained to me that the definition of hoarding is when one does not have the means to properly vet all the animals in their care. Ok, fine, but what standard of vetting are we talking about? Sounds suspiciously like hoarding = farming to the typical urban pet lover.
Which kind of brings me to the other thing: to say that a farm is actually an animal-friendly rescue kind of sounds like a judgment or diss on farming, like those other people who breed are not animal friendly and that they are actually doing something wrong. And I don't want to be one of those folks who condemn farming or breeding, or contribute to this notion that it's necessarily bad. I don't want to contribute to the anti-rural, anti-farming bent of the increasingly mainstream animal welfare advocates.
I think the answer may be something along the lines of this: there should be room for different kinds of animal guardianships. There are nearly endless configurations of human-animal relationships, and it's easy to assume that some are better than others without finding out. Just because I may not choose to breed but instead take in bunnies others have bred does not have to imply that breeding is bad. My goals are just different. Is this a cop-out? I don't think so. I am not interested in showing rabbits or in conformation, so there may be no "need" to breed. I just want happy bunnies and good fiber.