The bitter bunny battle

by Meat&Poultry Staff
Share This:
Search for similar articles by keyword: [Animal Welfare], [Consumers], [Whole Foods]
Rabbit rescue groups are protesting Whole Foods' decision to sell rabbit meat.

AUSTIN – Whole Foods Market's decision to carry rabbit meat in some of the chain's stores isn't sitting well with bunny advocates.

The company said consumer interest in the product led the company to establish welfare standards for its suppliers and a pilot program in which the meat is sold in select stores nationwide.

“For many years, lots of customers have requested that we carry rabbit. But first we needed to ensure the rabbit we sold would be consistent with WFM’s high animal-welfare standards,” the company explained in a May news release. “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.”

But groups such as the House Rabbit Society (HRS), SaveABunny and other rabbit welfare groups, say that Whole Foods is "creating and inflating" demand for rabbit meat. HRS estimates there are 6 to 9 million pet rabbits in the United States.

Rabbit protection and rescue groups including HRS have planned a Day of Action for Aug. 17 in which rabbit protection groups will peacefully distribute leaflets and protest Whole Foods’ decision the sell rabbit meat. Protesters are encouraged to let consumers know that Whole Foods’ rabbit welfare and care standards “are really just greenwashing PR.”

But Whole Foods said the standards are designed to take into account the instinctual behaviors of rabbits. So, the company requires suppliers to house rabbits in group pens with places to “hide and climb, and room to forage, groom, hop, socialize and play.”

Rabbits destined for Whole Foods' shelves also must have continuous access to water, feed, roughage, gnawing blocks and places for seclusion. Injured rabbits must receive medical treatment, and mother rabbits must have time to nurse and recover before being re-bred.

“We've worked closely with our supplier to set up several innovative family farms that are meeting those standards, and are now testing the program in a limited number of our stores within Northern California and in the Washington, DC metro area,” the company said.

Comment on this Article
We welcome your thoughtful comments. Please comply with our Community rules.

The views expressed in the comments section of Meat and Poultry News do not reflect those of Meat and Poultry News or its parent company, Sosland Publishing Co., Kansas City, Mo. Concern regarding a specific comment may be registered with the Editor by clicking the Report Abuse link.


By David Johnson 8/18/2014 9:57:01 AM
I too have pet dogs, fish and a PET rabbit. Guess what, Rabbit meat is delicious and great lean protein... I'd never eat my pet but I enjoy ones raised for that purpose. Good for Whole Foods!

By Blanca 8/17/2014 3:28:53 AM
I have had dogs, a kitty, freshwater fish in an aquarium, a turtle as pets. good for them to protest. Bad move in the part of Whole Foods. don't they know is offensive to pet owners? I have shopped on and off there whenever needed veggies, fruits, butters, breads, can't stomach this anymore

By Lisa Rockwell 8/16/2014 3:12:18 PM
The demand Whole Foods claims has yet to be proven. I have asked over a dozen times in different avenues to see the reports of said requests with no response from whole foods. Whole Foods has written many loop holes in to their standards to allow for individual farmers to use their own discretion. “hide and climb, and room to forage, groom, hop, socialize and play.” -at 2 square feet per 8lbs of bunnies (approx. 4 rabbits) does NOT leave a lot of room to play! Whole foods considers rabbits to be companion animals, they consider them pets! The fight will continue beyond the 17th if Whole Foods does not change their tune! Join the fight!

By Beth Chow 8/15/2014 7:31:52 AM
The information provided from Whole Foods is incorrect: Rabbit meat is confirmed at many stores outside the test area, including stores in Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Seattle, and St. Louis. Please update your information.