Who doesn’t like bunnies? Especially when they’re for dinner. Turns out, even the holiest of humane hustlers can’t sell rabbit meat without catching a Whole Foods Market full of grief.
Several organized protests were staged last weekend by animal activists, but for (against?) a cause that seldom appears on the movement’s radar.
The protests—such as they were—came in response to Whole Foods Market’s decision to start selling rabbit meat in select stores. In Washington, D.C., there were several dozen protestors holding signs and marching around Union Station. At a Whole Foods store outside Richmond, there were decidedly fewer people, according to a report from WTVR CBS 6, but the message was the same: “Whole Foods is now serving our pets.”
True enough: rabbit meat is being sold at select Whole Foods stores in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest and Northern California markets, according to the www.rabbit.org.
In a news release, Whole Foods’ officials claimed that lots of its customers “for many years” have been asking the natural foods grocery carry rabbit meat.
“But first we needed to ensure the rabbit we sold would be consistent with WFM’s high animal welfare standards,” the company statement read. “As most rabbit production is grim, we set out to develop our own set of animal welfare standards, which began a rigorous four-year process to address the welfare issues in rabbit production. As we have done in the past, our hope is that our standards will be a model for industry change.”
Whole Foods’ “model standards” require that:
- Rabbits be allowed to socialize, group pens with solid floors, dry bedding, and room to forage, groom, hop and socialize
- Continuous access to drinking water, feed, roughage, gnawing blocks, tunnels and places for seclusion
- Sick or injured animals are treated
- Mother rabbits time to recover before being re-bred
With the sole exception of that last item, the rest is pretty much mandatory for any producer who intends to make money raising food animals. Feed them? Treat them if they get hurt?
Addressing the real issue
Of course, as much as Whole Foods’ management would love to focus the debate on animal welfare standards, that’s not the issue that concerns people. It’s not about how humane a lifestyle the bunnies enjoy, it’s the fact that they’re killed and eaten. Period.