Whole Foods' Plan To Sell Rabbit Meat Incites Fury

08/13/2014 04:35 pm ET | Updated Aug 22, 2014

Whole Foods Market has begun selling rabbit meat in select stores nationwide, and the move has rabbit advocates hopping mad.

Mad enough, they say, that they'll be protesting at Whole Foods stores this weekend, handing out leaflets reminding consumers that rabbits are "popular furry companion[s]" often kept as pets.

On a webpage for The House Rabbit Society, the nonprofit rabbit advocacy group calls on attendees nationwide to "politely" inform shoppers of rabbits' status as pets, with the ultimate goal of persuading customers to fill out comment cards or speak to store managers. The campaign was organized by several rabbit advocacy groups.

At this time, Whole Foods Market is only selling rabbit meat in select stores in Northern California, the mid-Atlantic, the Midwest, north Atlantic, Northeast, South and Pacific Northwest as part of a pilot program.

In an email to The Huffington Post, Whole Foods spokesman Mike Silverman acknowledged the company is "sensitive to the companion animal issue." He emphasized the grocer decided to carry rabbit only as a result of repeated customer requests.

"A number of shoppers have been asking Whole Foods Market to carry rabbit for years but conventional raising practices do not meet our rigorous animal welfare standards," Silverman explained. "To meet our customers’ requests for rabbit we needed our own set of animal welfare standards. These animal welfare standards are a direct result of a rigorous four-year process to address the welfare issues in rabbit production."

A late-May media release from the company details some of those standards -- such as the requirement rabbits have "continuous access to drinking water, feed, roughage, gnawing blocks" -- which, Whole Foods says, were built to "ensure the overall health and well-being of the animals."

House Rabbit Society has dismissed the document as "just greenwashing PR."

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