The research found that ‘scruffing’ (holding the rabbit by the scruff of the neck) is associated by the rabbit to predators, potentially inducing trauma.
Another harmful carrying method found in the study was carrying rabbits on their back, this was found to cause tonic immobility which puts the rabbit in a harmful trance-like state.
A statement from researchers at the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science said: “Handling of rabbits is likely to have a direct impact on rabbit welfare. Negative impacts on rabbits can be minimised by handling them in an appropriate way, including avoiding methods with a high potential to impede welfare, such as tonic immobility and scruffing.
“Additional research is encouraged to explore the experience of rabbits during handling and to identify the methods that may make handling easier for the handler and reduce any perceived and actual negative experience for the rabbit.”
The research body intends to carry out further research into the subject.