The Real Reason Whole Foods No Longer Sells Rabbit Meat

In September 2015, Whole Foods announced that it would terminate its experiment in selling rabbit meat. They had only begun to sell rabbit meat in the summer of 2014. The official reason, as reported by Food Navigator, was that, despite the brand's pleasure in working with farmers to raise quality meat, the sales volume did not warrant the initiative's continuation. Unacknowledged was the yearlong campaign waged by animal rights activists and rabbit advocates, in particular. 

In VegNews' coverage of Whole Foods' decision, they note that a petition to stop the sale of rabbit meat received more than 50,000 signatures. Moreover, protests were held before stores across the country. "We hope that other grocery chains will follow suit so that the cruelty inherent in rabbit farming will cease forever," Tara Baxter, founder of the Rabbit Advocacy Network, said. "There is no humane way to farm and kill a bunny, and these animals suffer immensely when they should be treated like the beloved companion animals they are." Either their efforts persuaded Whole Foods to cease selling rabbit meat, or they made enough of a PR stink to dissuade customers from buying such goods. However they did it, groups like the Rabbit Advocacy Network won in this case. 

However, as the Rabbit Advocacy Network notes, there are still stores that sell rabbit meat. These include Publix, HMart, and Kroger, but only on request.

Rabbits are both friends and food

Rabbits occupy a strange place in Western culture in that they are the only species we both traditionally eat and now keep as pets. The New Yorker points to the change of the meat industry after the end of the Second World War as the beginning of when rabbit meat began to decline as a main protein. Beef production soared and white meat chicken quickly followed.

An additional reason given by one of The New Yorker's interviewees, the executive director of the American Rabbit Breeders Association Eric Stewart, was the creation of Bugs Bunny. After growing up with the anthropomorphized rabbit, people did not want to eat anything that resembled the beloved character. A similar fact supplied by the BBC is that, while rabbits were originally domesticated for their meat, the Victorians bred them into "the array of ultra-cute, slightly ridiculous companions" we now keep as pets. As the 44 states comprising Inhabit's list of places where it is illegal to kill a cat or a dog for their meat shows, we do not like to eat our pets. Animals we do not keep as pets, like chicken or cows, are considered fair game by a larger crowd.