WASHINGTON Aug 21 People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals (PETA) has joined a nationwide protest to
stop Whole Foods stores from selling rabbit meat, the
animal rights group said Thursday.
A group calling itself House Rabbit Society staged
demonstrations at 44 Whole Foods Markets Inc stores across the
nation on Sunday, accusing the food store chain of being "bunny
butchers" and demanding that the high-end supermarket chain stop
offering the product.
"A lot of people we talked to were surprised and horrified
that Whole Foods was even selling rabbits," said Anne Martin,
executive director of House Rabbit Society.
The society describes itself as a rabbit rescue and
educational organizational with 31 chapters in the United States
and 4,000 paying members.
Sprouts Farmers Market, another health food-oriented chain
store similar to Whole Foods, briefly carried rabbit in its 150
stores, but stopped after House Rabbit Society protested, Martin
Whole Foods, which offers about half of its 373 U.S. stores
the option of selling rabbit, said it recently set new standards
for rabbit farming. It said has no plans to stop selling the
In addition to the protests, an online petition drive to
stop Whole Foods from selling rabbit has gathered more than
16,000 signatures, according to the group's page on change.org.
PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said Whole Foods should
discontinue sales of rabbit meat because the slaughter methods
"We object to slaughtering any animals for a snack or a
meal, and we are painfully aware that rabbits, like chickens,
become extremely frightened when handled for slaughter and that
neck-wringing and neck-slitting lead to slow deaths," Newkirk
To minimize animal suffering and improve overall living
conditions, the company said it had set new animal welfare
standards for rabbits.
Those include allowing rabbits to socialize and play,
providing consistent access to food and water, and medical
treatment, and allowing a longer period of time for female
rabbits to recover after giving birth.
"We understand this product won't appeal to everyone," the
company said in a statement. "However, for those customers who
have been asking us to carry rabbit, it's our job to make sure
we offer the highest-quality product from responsible sources."
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Eric Walsh)