What is the overall message?
In Summer 2014, Whole Foods Market announced that they were embarking on a pilot campaign to begin selling rabbit meat at a handful of locations around the country. Since that time, they have expanded from their initial two regions to most of North America. Rabbits are America’s third most beloved companion mammal, and are not protected by any state or federal laws which protect other animals raised and killed for meat. Thanks to Whole Foods’ actions, Rabbit Advocacy Network (RAN), a coalition of dozens of rabbit rescue and humane organizations, was founded. RAN is asking all Whole Foods customers to express their displeasure with Whole Foods’ decision to sell rabbit meat by boycotting the store and by informing other Whole Foods customers why they are no longer shopping there.
Doesn’t Whole Foods raise rabbits in a humane, organic, and sustainable way?
Humane, organic, and sustainable is not the same thing as cruelty free. The quality of the rabbits’ diets and the fact they aren’t given hormones or antibiotics does not mean the rabbits are stress-free or happy. The rabbits sold at Whole Foods are babies, weighing only 2.5 to 3 pounds, taken from their families. Rabbits are social so their forced removal from their families is a traumatizing and stressful event. Broken social bonds and slaughter at a young age is not a natural bunny life.
Aren’t the rabbits sold at Whole Foods wild rabbits?
No. The rabbits Whole Foods sells as meat are a domesticated breed of rabbits, not wild rabbits. Wild rabbits and domesticated rabbits are so different that they cannot interbreed. The rabbits Whole Foods sells as meat are “New Zealand” rabbits – a specific breed of rabbit just like a German Shepard is a specific breed of dog. New Zealand rabbits are popular as pets in the United States because of their intelligence and sweet disposition – they are considered the Golden Retriever of the rabbit world.
Aren’t the rabbits sold at Whole Foods bred to be eaten?
The fact that Whole Foods has decided to sell domesticated rabbits as meat doesn’t change the nature of the rabbit. New Zealand rabbits are domestic rabbits that can live 10 or more years. They are docile and social. There is no difference between a “meat” rabbit and a pet rabbit; one just happened to be unlucky enough to be born on a meat farm. The decision to kill some animals for meat and not others is an arbitrary one for which there is not a good answer.
Are you advocating a vegetarian or vegan diet?
Rabbit Advocacy Network works to save companion rabbits from abuse, neglect, abandonment, euthanasia, and slaughter.
RAN also opposes animal cruelty, abuse and exploitation of any kind for any animal. We do not require our members and supporters to be vegetarian or vegan; all are welcome. The organization supports a plant-based, cruelty-free lifestyle and encourages people to open their hearts to all animals.
Isn’t Whole Foods just responding to customer demand?
No. Rabbit meat is not routinely consumed in the United States even though rabbits, horses, cats, and dogs are consumed in other parts of the world. Rabbits are the third most popular household pet in the United States. While there may be a marginal demand for rabbit meat there is a far greater demand for rabbits as pets and companions. In fact, Whole Foods is creating a new demand for rabbit meat by auto-shipping rabbit meat to its stores across the country, whether they want it or not, and by planting stories in magazines like Vogue, and saying that rabbit meat is “ethical.”
So what if Whole Foods sells rabbit. It’s just one chain?
Whole Foods is a very successful grocery store chain–the number one most profitable natural food retailer in the United States and the eighth most profitable grocery store in the country. Whole Foods is now selling rabbit meat in most Whole Foods regions and intends to expand into all regions. It is likely that other grocery stores will seek to copy the Whole Foods model and sell rabbit meat. These other stores will likely seek out less expensive sources with even lower standards.