Supporters of our campaign to get Whole Foods to stop carrying rabbit meat

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Thank you very much to those who support rabbits and have signed on to our letter asking Whole Foods Market in Northern California to stop selling rabbit meat.

The following letter was be sent to Whole Foods on July 1st but we are still adding signers. If you run a business, rescue or nonprofit, and you would like to be added as a signatory, please email us at norabbitmeat@saveabunny.org. As an individual, you can also contribute to this campaign. The rabbits thank you!


July 1, 2014: Our letter to Whole Foods Market

July 1, 2014

John Mackey
Chief Executive Officer, Whole Foods Market
550 Bowie Street
Austin, TX 78703

Rob Twyman
President, Whole Foods Market, Northern California region
5980 Horton Street Suite 200
Emeryville, CA 94608

Dan Neuerburg
Meat Coordinator, Whole Foods Market, Northern California region
5980 Horton Street Suite 200
Emeryville, CA 94608

Dear Mr. Mackey, Mr. Twyman and Mr. Neuerburg:

We have recently learned that Whole Foods is now selling rabbit meat at your Northern California stores. We ask you to please reconsider this choice and stop selling rabbit meat immediately. What Whole Foods may not realize is that this short-sighted marketing strategy is deeply offensive and personally distressing to thousands of animal lovers who may choose to take their business elsewhere as a direct result. This decision threatens the trust that many loyal customers place in Whole Foods to work cooperatively, respectfully and in harmony in the communities in which you operate.

Nationwide, rabbits are the third most popular pet behind cats and dogs. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2012, 1.4 million households in the U.S. have over 3 million rabbits as pets. Despite the promotion of your rabbit meat source as being a picturesque, high standard place to raise and slaughter rabbits, it distorts the reality that the New Zealand rabbits being butchered for Whole Foods are as intelligent, loving and sensitive as cats and dogs. New Zealand White rabbits are a well-loved companion breed. They are typically referred to as “the golden retrievers of bunnies” because of their gentle and loving personalities.

New Zealand rabbits are routinely spayed/neutered and placed up for adoption as a pet alongside cats and dogs by most animal services groups. In Northern California, there are at least a dozen well-known rabbit rescues and adoption centers. In the San Francisco Bay area alone, Marin Humane Society, San Francisco Animal Care and Control, Peninsula Humane Society, Humane Society of Silicon Valley, San Jose Animal Services, and Sonoma Humane Society are a partial listing of these agencies. Domestic rabbits are not a “fringe pet.” They are recognized and supported as companion animals by (among others) the American Humane Society and the ASPCA---which recently granted a $25,000 grant to a Northern California nonprofit rabbit rescue.

While Whole Foods may believe that it is being progressive and “humane,” in the eyes of a significant sector of your customer base Whole Foods is, in fact, taking a huge step backwards while unwittingly harming the efforts of long-standing community charitable activities.
We are asking you to remember that customer demand goes both ways: Your longstanding customers include the 1.4 million households living with a companion rabbit and the friends of these households. They want a pleasurable shopping experience without the trauma of seeing the skinned, frozen and shrink- wrapped bodies (in some cases, complete with the head and ears) of rabbits just like their furry family pet. Nor can this heartbreaking experience even be justified as "necessary." Whole Foods shoppers have plenty of options without adding rabbit meat.

While Whole Foods may not intend to distress its customers, you should know that for the millions of households who have rabbits as pets, a store's decision to sell rabbit meat is viewed as an act of aggression and callousness towards rabbits and the people who love them. In addition, you should know that many meat-eaters who do not have a rabbit as a pet are repulsed by the idea of eating a bunny. At the very least, your customers and team leaders deserved to be accurately informed that the rabbits being sold at Whole Foods as "meat" are the very same breed of rabbits being rescued, sheltered and adopted into loving homes in countless communities as pets.

You should also know that the average adult weight of the New Zealand White breed is 10 lbs and yet their weight is listed as 2.5-3 lbs in your meat case. Therefore, you are selling babies and juveniles, removed from their families in their youth. In addition to the incredible stress and psychological toll caused by this disruption of social bonds, rabbits grieve over the loss of their loved ones. It breaks our hearts to know of the suffering of these sensitive beings and we hope it touches your heart as well.

We would like to share some facts about companion rabbits with you in the hopes that this information may inspire Whole Foods to reevaluate the decision to sell domestic rabbits as "meat" in your stores:

  • Just like a cat or a dog, each rabbit has a very distinct personality. We know many shy rabbits, bold rabbits, quiet rabbits, playful rabbits, etc.
  • Rabbits are as intelligent as cats and dogs and can learn tricks.
  • Rabbits are sensitive, opinionated, and affectionate.
  • Rabbits bond with their human guardians and rabbit friends for life. Rabbits can actually grieve to death.
  • Spayed or neutered rabbits can use a litter box, just like a cat.
  • The average lifespan for a spayed/neutered indoor domestic rabbit is 7-10 years.

We urge you to please reconsider this terrible decision to sell rabbit meat at Whole Foods. Until there is a reversal in this decision, we will strongly encourage all households with rabbits, as well as all of our supporters and other friends of rabbits, to stop shopping at your stores. When you reverse this decision and stop selling rabbit meat, you will be demonstrating your commitment and sensitivity to the customers and communities you serve.

Sincerely,

Marcy Schaaf, Founder and Executive Director, on behalf of SaveABunny, Inc.
Margo DeMello, President, House Rabbit Society
Lejla Hadzimuratovic, President and Founder, Bunny World Foundation
Heather Bechtel, Director of The Rabbit Haven
Thea Smith, Development / Shelter Caretaker, Brambley Hedge Rabbit Rescue
Caroline Charland, President & Founder and Kim Scharf, Vice President, Bunny Bunch Rescue
Erin Ramsey, President, The Bunny Burrow Rabbit Rescue
Amy G. Mott, House Rabbit Society Educator, President of Clover Patch Sanctuary Inc.
Brooke Poertner, Executive Director, Contra Costa Rabbit Rescue
Joan Wegner, President and Founder, East Bay Rabbit Rescue
Patricia Brant, Regional Director, Gainesville Rabbit Rescue
Michelle Kelly, President, Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation
Elizabeth McNeil, President, Luv-n-Bunns Rabbit Rescue
Jessica Frey Cucka, Director, Nestle's Rabbit Rescue
Beverly May, Founding Director, Ohio House Rabbit Rescue
Tracy Martin, House Rabbit Society Educator, Rabbitron Rabbit Rescue
Judith Pierce, Adoptions Director, San Diego Companion Rabbit Society, Inc.
Janet M Foster President and Founder of Second Chance Bunnies, Inc.
Sivan Fraser, President and Founder, Sivan's Rabbit Rescue South Florida
Kimberly Wheatfill, Director, TEAM-FUR (Friends of Unwanted Rabbits)
Kelly Ames, Founder and Executive Director, Tranquility Trail Animal Sanctuary
Alexandra 'Cat' Lodgsdon, President, Zooh Corner Rabbit Rescue

Carol Novello, President, and Beth Ward, Vice President of Community Alliances, Humane Society Silicon Valley
Eric Zuercher, Supervisor, Animal Care & Veterinary Divisions, and Dr. Chris Anderson, DVM, San Francisco Dept. of Animal Care & Control

Stuart Homer, Founder and President, Golden State Greyhound Adoption
Elizabeth Young, Founder and Executive Director, MickaCoo Pigeon & Dove Rescue
Sherri Franklin, Executive Director of Muttville
Angela Padilla, Northern California Family Dog Rescue
Lauren Paul, Founder and Director, North Star Rescue
Odelkis Barrera, The Ontario Rescue
Bona Tucker, President and Founder, PetSave Foundation
Toni Sestak, Director, Toni's Kitty Rescue
Anne Feingold, Director, The Urban Cat Project

Jennifer Sidle, Owner, BinkyBunny.com
Connie Cowan, Owner, The Blissful Bunny
Kevin Dresser, President, BrooklynBunny.com
Vicki Anderholt, Bunnygroomer.com
Lisa Matheson, Owner, The Busy Bunny
Gail Colombo, CEO, CatFaeries.com
Catherine Boire, Owner, CBPR
Peg Frank, DVM, Cottage Grove Animal Hospital, Minnesota
Kelly Winterhalter & Ryan Pamplin, Founders, Ellovi
Stephanie Lamb, DVM, Exotic Animal Care Center
Gina Farr, Owner, Farr Visions Communications
Anita Ledtje, Owner, For Other Living Things
Heidi Margocsy, President and Founder, In Her Image Photography
Jill Harris, Owner, Informed Body Pilates
Ann Flagg Campbell, Vice President, Leo Construction, Inc.
Lisa Herndon, Founder, Owner, Educator, Lisa's Counter Culture
Jasmine Joseph, DC, LuceBones
Benjamin Garrett, Co-founder and CTO, Math Camp Inc.
Alison Bagby, General Manager at Millennium Restaurant
Bill Niemeyer, New Video Strategist and Tactician
Carol Dias, President, Pasu Petstore
Ray Guerra, President, Ray Guerra and Associates
Gretchen Flanagin, Registered Dietician
Joe Haptas & Noelle Callahan, owners, Republic of V
Julia and Gary Marcaletti, Co-owners, San Francisco Wine Trading Company
Ernesto A. Quintero, Owner/CEO, Saturn Café Inc.
Wendi Koble, Owner and Filmmaker, Swoon Films
Janice Whaley, Owner, The Happy Bamboo
Dave Middlesworth, Founder of V-dog
Tracy Stocker, President, When You're Not There Pet Care
Bonnie Lee, Senior Office Administrator, William Maston Architect & Associates

Dawn Roznowski, Educator, Hoover High School
Marcus Jannesson, M.Sc. Psychology instructor at Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada
Susan Stienstra, licensed Humane Educator and former Director of Operations, and David Rutan, Board Member, Palo Alto Humane Society
Camilla H. Fox, Executive Director, Project Coyote, National Coalition of Scientists and Educators


July 3, 2014: Response from Whole Foods Market


In a message dated 7/3/2014 4:26:51 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, Liz.Burkhart@wholefoods.com writes:

Hi Marcy -- Liz Burkhart here from Whole Foods Market. Please see our executive leadership team's response (below). For your reference, I've also attached a copy of our animal welfare standards for rabbits, which we've also made available on our website for anyone who is interested in viewing the full standards: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/department/article/rabbit

Thank you for bringing your thoughts and concerns to our attention. We recognize this could be a concern for some shoppers in our Northern California and Mid-Atlantic regions where we have a rabbit pilot program, whether they have rabbits as pets or not. We hear your feedback and we will take it into careful consideration as we evaluate this pilot of the sale of rabbit in two of our 12 regions.

The reality is, for many years, lots of customers have requested that we carry rabbit; and those who want to buy rabbit will buy rabbit, whether Whole Foods Market is selling it or not. In conventional systems, there are no defined standards for raising rabbit. Most rabbit production is grim in stark contrast to the standards we developed at Whole Foods Market, which provides vastly-improved living conditions and care.

Our animal welfare standards for rabbit are designed around their instinctual behaviors and include more than 75 species-specific requirements that ensure the overall health and well-being of the animals. These standards are a direct result of a rigorous four-year process to address the welfare issues in rabbit production. As we have done in the past, our hope is that our standards will be a model for industry change.

Sincerely,
Executive Leadership Team, Whole Foods Market


July 4, 2014: SaveABunny response

Dear Ms. Burkhart and Executive Leadership Team,

Thank you for the prompt notice of receipt of our letter. In addition to over 6,000 individuals to date who have signed a petition to boycott Whole Foods, please be sure to review the current signatories from a wide-range of local and national businesses. The rabbit meat issue extends beyond just "the bunny people."

The addition of rabbit meat to Whole Foods is a legitimate offense to animal lovers of all kinds from all walks of life. This is a heartfelt issue for millions of people. Therefore, the rote response from Whole Foods that details "humane standards", while claiming to be sensitive to the issue, is actually incredibly insensitive. To understand Whole Foods' lack of empathy and the condescending tone of the reply, please substitute your own pet dog's name for "rabbit." Then you may start to understand why so many people don't want to see a carcass of pet rabbit at Whole Foods.

Whole Foods has failed to take into account the customer wishes and revenue stream from rabbit guardians who buy hundreds of dollars of greens each month for their treasured family pet. And, the people who might buy products at Whole Foods because they are not tested on rabbits. How does it work that Whole Foods is opposed to animal testing on rabbits, but is proud to be the same company who raises and kills them for profit? Are your customers truly educated and aware of this discrepancy?

A good business model will show that the demand to NOT sell rabbit meat is ultimately greater than the demand to sell it. Whole Foods has crossed a line even for mainstream carnivores and omnivores in order to cater to a supposed customer "demand" for rabbit meat.

The marketing and PR spin of "humane standards" for rabbit meat production is unabashed green-washing. In reality, Whole Foods is attempting to jack up demand for a new meat source. Adding rabbit meat dramatically increases the number of animals bred and slaughtered specifically for consumption. This mass production of new animals uses more water and natural resources (which is not truly "sustainable"). Whole Foods will also be directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of companion breed animals and the "leader" in growing this cruel trend. The public has the right to know this. Even the majority of your store team leaders told us they were unaware that the rabbit meat they were selling is the same as a pet bunny.

Whole Foods acknowledges the social needs of rabbits by letting them live with other rabbits, play and see the sun before being butchered. It might not be typical factory farming, but it is still mass production and slaughter being justified by gross oversimplification of actual rabbit behavior and ignoring their actual needs and high intelligence. Rabbits bond for life with their friends and can grieve to death by the loss of a mate. Whole Foods is creating great stress for these animals and then ultimately sending them to slaughter.

Instead of being an industry leader, Whole Foods has become an example of what retailers DON'T want to do:

  • lose sight of basic decency in the pursuit of profits
  • insult and offend loyal customers
  • jeopardize the company's reputation and lose goodwill
  • create conflict and be a negative presence in local communities
  • interfere with the charitable work of animal rescues and animal shelters
  • generate negative media attention

It's hard to imagine that Whole Foods is willing to risk so much and offend so many people for the supposed demand of a few.

Until Whole Foods stops the production, sale and funding of rabbit meat production we will encourage all our members,supporters and business colleagues to immediately stop shopping at Whole Foods.

Sincerely,
Marcy Schaaf
SaveABunny Founder and Executive Director

July 19, 2014: Whole foods follow-up to in-person meeting in San Francisco

As part of a series of outreach events at Whole Foods, a number of rabbit advocates got together at a few stores to talk to customers about the rabbit meat issue. A WFM PR staff member from the Emeryville office, Beth, was in the San Francisco store and we talked with her at length about the issue. The following email thread is follow-up to that conversation.


On Jul 19, 2014, at 2:53 PM, "Beth Krauss (NC NCC)" wrote:

Hi Marcy,
It was nice meeting you today. Thanks for the thoughtful feedback and sensitive conversation. I’ve bulleted out key points of our conversation and sent them to our global and regional meat teams. Among those points:

  • Enough with the standards. That’s not the problem – rather, what’s important is that selling a pet species is not acceptable. You expect that WFM would have proper animal welfare standards, so discussing those is futile.
  • This species of rabbit is smart, friendly, obedient and loving. People that have these bunnies as pets are very passionate about them.
  • The likelihood that this is making money for the company is extremely slim. We are potentially losing thousands and thousands of dollars on produce that bunny owners feed their pets alone, and rabbit sales can’t be making up for that. You see this as a bad business decision.
  • SaveABunny and the House Rabbit Society would like to engage in reasonable conversation with Whole Foods Market before exploring more aggressive protest options, but those are definitely on the table.
  • If we stop selling rabbit, we’ll be a hero among bunny owners, and have an opportunity to win back a key demographic we’ve lost.

Please let me know if there is anything else vocal you’d like me to communicate, and I’ll be in touch again as soon as I hear back from our leadership team

I hope the rest of your weekend is relaxing, and that you enjoy the rest of your time with Rama and Scuba!

Thanks,
Beth Krauss
Whole Foods Market, Northern California/RenoWhole Foods.
510-428-7039
T: @WholeFoodsNorCa

July 19, 2014: SaveABunny response

From: Marcy Schaaf
To: Beth Krauss (NC NCC)
Sent: Sat, Jul 19, 2014 10:33 pm
Subject: Re: Nice to meet you, sharing your feedback

Hi Beth,

Likewise, it was nice to meet you. We really appreciated your interest and willingness to discuss this issue. It is relevant to animal lovers of all types---not just bunny lovers. Important points to add in your correspondences to management:

  • Animal lovers of all species and their friends shop at Whole Foods for themselves and families and not just for produce for their rabbits. Whole Foods stands to lose existing and future customers with the sale of bunny rabbit meat
  • This is not a fringe issue that will go away. In just a few days over 70 businesses signed our letter ( more to follow) and a " quickie" petition garnered over 8,000 signatures. Momentum and national public opinion against Whole Foods Markets is growing. Whole Food's sale of bunny rabbit meat betrayed hard won customer trust and damaged the company's reputation.
  • You are correct that the interest is in resolving this issue quickly and in a positive way. It is not too late for Whole Foods to emerge as a truly progressive company by listening to the national demand to NOT sell bunny meat. It is offensive and disturbing to the millions of people who live with and adore their pet rabbits.
  • An escalation of protests with media coverage is always a possibility, though of course, it would be way easier and more pleasant for all parties if this can be avoided. Your former customers would be grateful and return. Whole Foods will ultimately gain more goodwill and good press by immediately stopping the sale of rabbit meat with the pledge to not add it back.
  • Whole Foods Market customers are willing to spend money to support a compassionate lifestyle, such as purchasing products not tested on rabbits. It is a major conflict for Whole Foods to tell customers that they do not allow the sale of products tested on rabbits, yet sell that exact type of domestic, companion rabbit for meat at Whole Foods. By adding a companion animal as meat Whole Foods is not being "progressive", but rather taking a huge step backwards. You are correct that "standards of care"are not the issue.

Stopping the sale of bunny meat and working cooperatively and respectfully with your loyal demographic of animal lovers will be a real win-win. I do hope that we can work together to make this happen in the very near future. We should be working together to make this world a better place and I would welcome working with you.

Thank you again for talking with us and for your compassion toward these remarkable and forgiving little animals.

Sincerely,

Marcy Berman Schaaf
SaveABunny Founder

July 22, 2014: Whole Foods response

On Jul 22, 2014, at 8:13 AM, "Liz Burkhart (CE CEN)" wrote:

Hi Marcy,

Liz Burkhart here from our Global Office (we emailed last week). Beth shared her note (below) with me (as well as additional feedback you shared with her directly) so I could escalate your concerns to our leadership team.

I'm following up to let you know that I've shared your feedback not only with the program leadership involved in developing and executing this program, but directly with highest level of company leadership. We truly appreciate your feedback and have done all we can to communicate your wishes and concerns to our leadership team. Thanks for your understanding, and for taking the time to clarify your position and concerns so we could convey them accurately.

Best,
Liz

Liz Burkhart
Senior Media Relations Specialist
Whole Foods Market
512-284-1836

July 22, 2014: Our response

From: Marcy Schaaf
Date: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 10:18 AM
To: "Liz Burkhart (CE CEN)"
Cc: Beth Krauss
Subject: Re: Nice to meet you, sharing your feedback

Hi again,

I'm sorry! I think I accidentally replied only to Liz instead of "reply all."
There was another point I wanted to add. The bunny rabbit meat program has also brought "support" from some truly "fringe" people ( who most likely are not even Whole Foods customers).

Backyard rabbit breeders from Wyoming and random places are posting hostile, false reviews, grotesque photos of dead rabbits, recipes for rabbit meat and threats online and on your pages. Someone made up a story about being attacked by someone with a SaveABunny flyer while shopping with her invalid grandmother for rabbit meat at the Napa Whole Foods. This person claimed to have filed a police report.

We were not involved with any incident in Napa and do not encourage or condone violence of any kind. Our attorney notified them that their postings online were false and libelous and we would pursue legal action if they were not removed ( they were).

So, when you see "support" for rabbit meat on your pages or elsewhere, please be aware that there are some scary people out there who will say or do anything. They are aligning themselves with Whole Foods. Those people are not actually your customers---unlike your long-standing customers who are upset with Whole Foods selling bunny rabbit meat.
Sincerely,
Marcy Berman Schaaf
SaveABunny Founder
www.saveabunny.org
Save A Bunny. Save A Life!
www.saveabunny.org/donate
A 501c3 nonprofits

July 22, 2014: Whole Foods response

From: Liz Burkhart (CE CEN)
To: Marcy Schaaf
Cc: Beth Krauss (NC NCC)
Sent: Tue, Jul 22, 2014 2:05 pm
Subject: Re: Nice to meet you, sharing your feedback

No problem at all. Thank you for the additional information and insight. We hear you. We know that there is misinformation out there, and we're doing our best to set the record straight. Thank you for doing your part to let your members know we hear their concerns and welcome their feedback. I really do appreciate you keeping us updated. If anything else comes to mind, please feel free to send it to me directly so that I can continue to share it with our product and company leaders. At this time, we don't have plans to discontinue the rabbit program, but you will be the first to know if anything changes.

Thank you,
Liz

July 22, 2014: Our follow-up

Dear Liz and Beth,

Thank you for taking the time to write to us.

Your job must be a very difficult one trying to make something so wrong and offensive to so many people seem right.

To clarify, we don't believe at all that there is any "misinformation" out there for you to correct-----except, perhaps, that Whole Foods customers and staff are not informed that the bunny rabbit meat is the same as a pet bunny adopted as a family member at their local animal shelter.

It is an oxymoron to say that we are being heard when clearly we are not. Without much fanfare or organized efforts to date, Whole Foods has already received extensive negative feedback and comments from customers across the nation who absolutely want the program discontinued.

It is very disappointing that Whole Foods has made the deliberate and conscious choice to alienate customers in order to kill millions of companion breed animals to build profits. How can Whole Foods reconcile selling bunny rabbit meat while promoting the sale of products not tested on rabbits?
We have done our best to represent the bigger picture and resolve this issue in a positive and professional way. As previously mentioned, Whole Foods has been given the opportunity to build goodwill and get good press by stopping the sale of bunny rabbit meat in its stores. Instead, the compassionate demands of animal lovers all over the country are being treated with contempt. They are being shown that their opinions and dollars do not matter and Whole Foods would rather sell companion animal meat than listen to its longstanding customers.

It is truly unfortunate that the decision to continue the slaughter and sale of bunny rabbit meat will undoubtedly lead to a nationwide escalation of efforts against Whole Foods in the very near future. If for some reason Whole Foods Market decides to reverse their decision, we would welcome the opportunity to work with you and also communicate this wise choice to our supporters and the alliance of other groups.

Sincerely,
Marcy Schaaf
Founder,SaveABunny

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