Rabbit and other “exotic meats” have been growing in popularity over the last few years. The increasing demand has led to a boom in rabbit farming, and PETA announced on Thursday August 22nd, that it has decided to take a stand on the issue by joining a nationwide protest over the sale of farmed rabbit meat at Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM).

Whole Foods Rabbit Sales

Statements from PETA and House Rabbit Society

“A lot of people we talked to were surprised and horrified that Whole Foods was even selling rabbits,” explained Anne Martin, the executive director of House Rabbit Society, in an interview with Reuters.

The House Rabbit Society calls itself as a rabbit rescue and educational organization, and claims 31 chapters in the United States as well as 4,000 members.

Martin also noted that Sprouts Farmers Market, another health food store similar to Whole Foods, briefly carried rabbit in its 150 stores, but stopped last year after House Rabbit Society organized a protest.

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk also said Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) is obligated to discontinue sales of rabbit because the slaughter methods are inhumane.

“We object to slaughtering any animals for a snack or a meal, and we are painfully aware that rabbits, like chickens, become extremely frightened when handled for slaughter and that neck-wringing and neck-slitting lead to slow deaths,” Newkirk said in a statement.

Statement from Whole Foods

Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) also released a statement in response to the protest. “We understand this product won’t appeal to everyone. However, for those customers who have been asking us to carry rabbit, it’s our job to make sure we offer the highest-quality product from responsible sources.”

The health food giant also said it had established new animal welfare standards for rabbits to minimize animal suffering and improve living conditions.

The new standards include permitting rabbits to socialize and play, consistent access to food, water and medical treatment, and providing for a longer period of time for female rabbits to recover before having another litter.

Whole Foods, which sells rabbit in around half of its 373 U.S. stores, said it just set new standards for rabbit farming and has no plans to stop selling rabbit meat.