From Spotted Tails

by Mari Rodriguez

I have cried a lot since July 18.

What happened on that day was to blow open a side of myself I had never met. It was early; I had my coffee going, and was browsing through my email when I came upon a petition that affected me in a way no others had before. This was a petition announcing that Whole Foods, a store I revered as being top notch in every way, was carrying rabbit meat. What??? No way! I immediately emailed Whole Foods’ corporate headquarters to see if this was true, and that’s when the crying began. A “customer information specialist” named Julie Covar from Austin replied within hours; not only was it true, but Whole Foods had been planning it for years – planning to sell the meat of animals regarded by most Americans as household pets. Needless to say, this mother of four happy house rabbits signed the petition!

Since that sad morning in July I have done a lot more than cry. First it was the unflattering video I took of myself with two of my rabbits and shared on YouTube, Facebook and Google + and soon I was engaging in verbal dialogues with total strangers. I have been a bit obsessed – even more than normal (for people who know me) – with standing up to this big corporation for what I believe is a huge mistake. I know I have gotten on the last nerve of some of my friends and even driven some away on social media, but I am a bunny mom! If a huge grocery chain suddenly began selling the meat of dogs or cats (or horses or guinea pigs…), I’m pretty sure you would come unglued too.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past several months. I am brave. I am fierce. I am capable of doing things I did not know I could do. I don’t say that with ego, but rather with immense humility. I did not know I could stand in front of a popular grocery store in the middle of the town I grew up in, by myself, holding up a protest sign. Or that the signs would multiply and get bigger – attracting even more attention to my unpopular feelings about a store so many of my friends and members of the community love. I did not know I could hear without personalizing or reacting to the comments made by consumers with differing opinions or by those who nonchalantly choose to make light. It never occurred to me that this was a fight or that I would still be standing in front of Whole Foods during the holidays.

On the flipside, I cannot possibly count all the interesting conversations I’ve had with people, the honks, waves, hugs and thanks I’ve received for being there for the rabbits or just standing up for something I believe in. Or the amazing community of rabbit moms (and dads) and activists I’ve met who’ve lifted me up and shown me that I am not alone in my thoughts or position. On one Sunday in October a man called out to me (with a smile and a wave) “David and Goliath!” This inspired me for the remainder of the day and caused spontaneous smiles at the ground in between my chats with customers.

Sometimes shoppers ask “what did Whole Foods do now?” But more frequently I hear, “Whole Foods sells rabbit?” Why do you suppose Whole Foods doesn’t advertise this new meat product? Did you know that all of Whole Foods’ rabbit comes from Iowa and that Iowa passed “ag-gag” legislation in 2012, making the reporting of farm animal cruelty a punishable crime? There is no way for Whole Foods to guarantee the way rabbits are raised, transported or killed because there is no true oversight. Does it bother you that these are domestic rabbits raised solely for their meat and that not a single one will live more than 16 weeks? Or what about the fact that they’re auto-shipped to the individual stores where there must be some pressure to sell them, demand or no demand? Even if you don’t have pets, let alone rabbits, this information should raise a red flag.

The grassroots Rabbit Advocacy Network, born out of Whole Foods’ decision to carry rabbit meat, is an extraordinary effort of some of the mightiest people I have met during this campaign. And together we fight (and sometimes cry), remaining hopeful that Whole Foods will rescind their decision to sell the flesh of our pets for $10.99 a pound.

Please, if you haven’t already, sign the petition asking Whole Foods to stop carrying rabbit meat. Thank you. If you would like to do more, check out Rabbit Advocacy Network’s website for information and scheduled events. Here’s why we love rabbits.


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