According to countless statements to the press, Whole Foods Market began selling rabbit meat in Summer 2014 in order to meet customer demand. From Whole Food Market’s press release announcing the sale:
For many years, lots of customers have requested that we carry rabbit. (Whole Foods Market Rabbit Standards Development Process)
Rabbit welfare organizations, along with other humane organizations, have been asking Whole Foods to show us the proof of that customer demand. We wanted to know how many people were clamoring for a new animal to be added to the Whole Foods meat cases, and whether that customer demand was actually substantial enough to not only ignore the demands of thousands of other Whole Foods customers (over 36,000 people have so far signed the Change.org petition asking the company to stop selling rabbits), but to consign perhaps hundreds of thousands of rabbits to a short life and brutal death each year. These rabbits, America’s third most popular furry pet, are not being added to the Whole Foods meat cases in order to replace other animals currently being slaughtered and consumed by Whole Foods customers; they were introduced as an additional meat option.
Whole Foods Market has never shared with us their information about the number of customers who have been demanding rabbit meat. However, we have been able to get access to the sales numbers for rabbit meat, and what these numbers show is not consistent with Whole Foods’ claim that customers are demanding to eat rabbit meat.
These numbers clearly show that in every region except Northern California (which slowed a slight bump in sales from week 15 to week 16 after a lengthy decline) and the Pacific Northwest (which slowed another bump in sales from week 15 to week 16 for frozen rabbit), rabbit sales have been going down, sometimes drastically. In fact, the sales numbers from week 12 (when the company expanded sales from the initial two regions to the eight regions being represented today) to week 18 show a very clear downward trajectory:
Our question to Whole Foods management is: why is the company continuing to sell rabbit meat, when the demand for it is clearly not there? Why do these rabbits have to die?