Here’s What’s Wrong With Whole Foods’ Plan to Sell “Humane” Rabbit Meat

Earlier this summer Whole Foods decided to launch a pilot program that put rabbit meat on its store shelves at select locations across the country, but the move isn’t sitting well with animal lovers. Over the weekend, animal advocates and dozens of rabbit rescues took part in a nationwide day of action in an effort to get customers to ask the store to stop.

In a statement, Whole Foods claimed the move was in response to customer demand for rabbit meat:

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. 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. As we have done in the past, our hopeis that our standards will be a model for industry change.

Unfortunately for Whole Foods, animal advocates can see through it’s thinly veiled attempt to humane-wash rabbit meat, which has led to calls to stop by individuals and dozens of organizations, which have signed on to a letter to asking the store to reconsider.

It’s not that bunnies are worth saving from dinner plates and soup bowls because they’re super cute, even though they obviously are, or that they’re more important than the billions of other animals we raise and ruthlessly slaughter for their flesh every year. There are many other problems with the move to raise and kill a breed of rabbit we keep as pets that have both animal lovers and rabbit advocates reeling.

Sure, you can already get rabbit meat, but compared to other types of meat available it’s relatively rare. One of the biggest problems with Whole Foods’ program is that it’s setting a dangerous precedent by making this the first time a major grocery store chain in the U.S. has put an animal that most of us consider a pet on its shelves in an attempt to popularize it and make a profit, which animal advocates believe will help start a cruel trend by creating a demand for another animal product that most people really had no interest in.

It’s kind of an odd move, considering the store banned the sale of live lobsters in 2006 because, well, the experience is not very nice for lobsters. It took a task force to figure out that lobsters aren’t inanimate objects and that no matter how many changes they made to the supply chain to improve welfare, or their quality of life, they couldn’t make it something they could live with calling humane.

Oddly enough, the store now wants people to believe that it can make mass rabbit meat production humane. The company spent an entire four years agonizing over how to make it nicer to keep and kill a smart, sensitive, social and loving species, after all. However, the House Rabbit Society breaks it down to show there’s not really much difference in the store’s new standards and how meat rabbits are typically raised anyway.

Both males and females can still be isolated if necessary, females can still be bred every 30 days, rabbits will still be torn from their social groups and babies (fryers) will still be killed when they’re 10-12 weeks old.

Aside from trying to make “new” standards for care, there’s not much Whole Foods can do to ensure the humane treatment it’s promoting either. According to the House Rabbit Society, two of its current suppliers are located in Missouri and Iowa both of which have ag gag laws who source their rabbits randomly so there’s no way to vouch for where they came from in the end.

Meat rabbits are also classified as poultry and are excluded from the basic protection other livestock animals are afforded under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which means they get no federal protection from abuse and are subject to any state laws that may or may not exist to protect them from inhumane slaughter practices, which are left out of the store’s humane guidelines.

Even though Whole Foods says it will have a USDA inspector (which isn’t required for rabbit meat), they won’t be there to ensure rabbits don’t suffer when they’re being killed, only that the meat is safe.

It’s beyond disappointing to see a vegan/vegetarian friendly retailer that offers an array of cruelty-free products for caring consumers cave to the alleged demands of a few who want to see even more animals raised and killed every year for a product we don’t need. Hopefully more customers will express their disappointment, than the “lots” of customers who supposedly asked it to start selling rabbit meat.


Please sign and share the petition asking Whole Foods to abandon this pilot program and commit to protecting rabbits by keeping them out of its stores.

For more information on how to help, visit the House Rabbit Society and SaveABunny.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V5 months ago

thanks for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Angela P.
Angie P1 years ago

Petition signed.

Gerald L.
Gerald L1 years ago

Mark, your avatar, a picture of a dog, is it your dog? It is not on a leash or muzzled, would it chase a rabbit if the opportunity arose?

You see mark, humans are opportunists, taking advantage of natures bounty. not all are in favour of callous industrial polluters. But we are entangled with modern conveniences. My computer needed mined resources, aluminum, precious metals, plastics and probably exploited workers in Asia.

The electricity locally is produced by water, hydraulically since we are off coal power generation. We are blessed with technology, and some if not most has its environmental impact. But yet you curse us wanting to eat rabbit who ate grass and greens to develop muscle. But yet you may prefer Tofu that needs farm equipment, fertilizer, herbicides, Carbon Inputs, excessive transportation and Food Miles etc.

Mark, it is always wise to consider what the options are before we voice our opinions. Mark you verbally give the impression you are a Native American. We are not proud of the exploitation, murders and pillaging that went on. Some exploitation is still practiced today, but spewing hatred and death wishes does not bring healing. Education, training, teaching old survival skills, food preservation, whatever your heritage is. That is why I mentioned the Hopi further south in Arizona who grew corn, cotton, squash, wove blankets etc.

These are skills that should be cherished and passed on.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner1 years ago

yes Gerald, scary to you.. I don't care. I would not only exterminate the diseased mass murdering colonizers if I could go back in time, I would make certain they never colonize again.. by giving all the native inhabitants on every continent a warning of the earth destroyers.. I would bring back a video of the state of the dying earth, the mass extinctions, the industrial nightmare that is destroying earth soupy filth of air and water that is Asia, the dying oceans, the sixth great human caused extinction and tell them it is their duty to exterminate those colonizers in their diseased wooden boats and they would be heros of the earth. I would give the native tribes modern weapons where the colonizers didn't stand a chance. And I'd be proud of doing that.

Gerald L.
Gerald L1 years ago

contd; At present the TOP 10 AG Products in Utah are;

And it's not surprising turkeys actually outnumber chicken production.

But Mark we will be gracious and cut you some slack, being your young of age;

Gardening in the DESERT Southwest - Food Crops You Can Grow in Utah...

► 19:05
21 Sep 2011 - 19 min - Uploaded by Learn Organic Gardening at GrowingYourGreens
John from goes on a field trip to St. George, Utah to ...

Gerald L.
Gerald L1 years ago

Glennis, Mark has a tough time understanding what has happened when rabbits, wild hogs etc. have reached excessive levels, When the ecological damage is traumatic to the environment. I wonder if he has ever witnessed a plague of grasshoppers. Mark would be begging for a piece of meat when the landscape hasn't a blade of green foliage in sight.

Scary thought that he would exterminate the colonizers to the N.A. Continent if he had the opportunity. But then he would be able to enjoy his diet of Bison, be warmed by a bison robe in the winter, nourished by pemican made from berries and meat covered in melted fat. His State of Utah has the Salt Lake Desert to the Rocky Mountain Range, a harsh landscape at best. Utah's land elevations average more than 11000 feet above sea level. Its geographic diversity, annual precipitation and the state's growing season varies greatly. ... A look at the state's leading commodities, based on cash receipts.

I am sure Marks ancestry was nourished by many wild meats, clothed in hides, possibly traded corn with native americans in the Southwest. The Hopi in Arizona used irrigation to grow corn, beans, cotton and squash. Corn was the staple food. The Hopi were also extremely skilled in arts such as weaving, embroidering things and pottery making.

Mark has never identified his heritage, if he is possibly Hopi from Arizona where he would have had the opportunity to be nourished with a vegan diet. At present the TOP 10 AG Products in Utah are;

Mark Donners
Mark Donner1 years ago

I missed Dale O. There is a lot of pretense there of helping the environment. But any solution to stop destruction of the environment is instantly met with "you're misanthropic" The stupidest excuse to do nothing about it I've ever heard. But that is more the norm of human behavior than common sense, logic or compassion.. which proves my point exactly

Mark Donners
Mark Donner1 years ago

The Glennis, Gerald and Mary examples of hairless apes are the real menace to this world. They appear to be not only promoting the destruction of the earth for greed but also promoting vicious sadism on rabbits as well. Why? Is that part of your sorry hypocritical human lives? And your question of endangered species, does Whole Foods sell them as sustainable? Yes they do. Try and ask those sorry con artists about their swordfish and orange roughy that they sell? They will try to ignore you and literally snap at you. Because Whole Foods like the other criminal corporate mafia of America and the huge part of the population of overpopulated humans (some represented on this comment board) who are depraved beyond belief, care nothing about either the future of the earth or even of their children. They care only about their own selfish personal greed.

Glennis Whitney
Glennis W1 years ago

Thank you for sharing, ordinary rabbits are a menace, have done alot of damage to farms and parklands, look at the damage the done on MacQuarie Island [just google it], we used to trap them and eat them when we were kids, the ones they sell at the markets and stores are specially breed for human consumpton, wouldn't eat the ordinary rabbit now as you don't know what disease they have after using all the poison to get rid of them.