Animal rights activists from the Bunny World Foundation and the Companion Animal Protection Society staged a protest of Whole Foods Market in West Hollywood yesterday, participating in a nation-wide protest of over 40 Whole Foods Markets to immediately stop the sale of butchered rabbits. About 20 activists brandishing signs and chanting “Whole Foods has blood on its hands!” marched near the front door of the supermarket and collected signatures from shoppers.
In a promotional effort to capitalize on the market for trendy lean meats, Whole Foods Market is selling rabbit meat in several "test market" locations in a “pilot program.” Los Angeles animal protection advocates planned to stop the slaughter of rabbits by conducting a “preemptive strike” before Whole Foods attempts to sell rabbit meat in LA.
Tara Baxter, advisory board member of SaveABunny, and an organizer of the nation-wide protests, said, "I live with two rescued rabbits who are beloved members of my family and the idea of them being reduced to dinner is horrifying to me. We will not allow Whole Foods to hide behind their so-called humane standards when potentially, millions of rabbits will be slaughtered."
Whole Foods Market posted what they consider to be humane standards of care for commercial rabbit breeders and slaughterers on their website, which was greeted by sneers by animal rights professionals. “The USDA does a woefully inefficient job at protecting animals in breeding facilities,” said Deborah Howard, president of the Companion Animal Protection Society.
“It’s offensive enough that Whole Foods already sells slaughtered animals under the guise that they are raised humanely. However, rabbits, like dogs and cats, are considered companion animals and most people would find it offensive to eat an animal that is a member of their family. Whole Foods has developed their own set of standards for raising rabbits for consumption. Who exactly is overseeing this program on a daily basis? One of the standards is that the rabbits be inspected twice a day. Is Whole Foods really planning on sending inspectors to each rabbit facility to see that the standards are enforced? People think they’re making a difference by shopping at Whole Foods because they are buying ‘organic’ produce and dead animals who were ‘humanely’ raised. There is no such thing as humane slaughter. Killing is killing. If you really want to have a huge impact on the environment and prevent cruelty to animals then go vegan.” ~ Deborah Howard, President, Companion Animal Protection Society
As the activists grew louder, the West Hollywood manager of Whole Foods confronted them, ordering them to move to a corner of the parking lot. Minutes later, five police officers arrived at the scene and attempted to intimidate protesters who stood their ground, claiming their rights of freedom of assembly on private property open to the public in California. None of the police officers were aware of a California 2007 Supreme Court decision to allow assembly on private property for the purpose of boycotting a store.
A West Hollywood sergeant attempted to verbally bully this reporter and activist. He peppered me with questions like, “Do you think this store has a right to sell meat?” “We would like you to uphold our right to assemble as equally as you uphold their right not to be bothered,” I responded. The sergeant refused to take the legal decision printed out on a sheet of paper.
“What will they sell next? Dog meat?” said one of the activists.
“Whoever at Whole Foods decided it was a lucrative idea to sell butchered bunny meat is a Neanderthal. While Whole Foods is busy selling dead pets, we are working to draft legislation to further protect rabbits in Los Angeles. After years of successfully combatting illegal animal traffickers who abused unweaned bunnies in LA, we now find that Whole Foods will be selling them dead? Not on our watch! If Whole Foods has its way, millions of rabbits will be tortured and killed. Whole Foods must remember that Los Angeles is a humane city and that consumers are revolted by the sale of pets as meat. We want to inspect Whole Foods’ dead rabbit suppliers. If Whole Foods’ customers could see what happens in one of its rabbit slaughterhouses, they would run. Have you ever heard a rabbit scream? “~Lejla Hadzimuratovic, Founder and President of Bunny World Foundation
According to the 2012 American Pet Products Association (APPA), 2.5 million households now live with pet rabbits.
A phone survey conducted of 39 Northern California Whole Foods Market Stores revealed that only one of 39 store managers interviewed were aware that they were selling meat from domestic rabbit breeds. Most believed the meat came from either wild rabbits or from New Zealand. Most employees said they were very unhappy about the decision--especially those employees who have shared their lives with pet rabbits along with cats and dogs.
Whole Foods Market has repeatedly declined to explain the contradiction in their decision to kill rabbits while promoting products not tested on the very same type of rabbits. Whole Foods Executives have responded to consumer complaints with a form letter claiming “sensitivity to the issue,” while touting the “highest standards” for large scale rabbit meat production and slaughter with “the goal of creating standards for other companies to follow.”
Lisa Rockwell, who started the petition which surpassed 10,000 signatures, says "I was horrified to see rabbit meat at my local Whole Foods. It was offensive and condescending for Whole Foods Markets to send me a form letter about their standards. Standards are not the issue. They are selling the meat of pet breed rabbits, just like mine."