Animal rights activists faced off against Sheriff’s deputies as they staged a demonstration on Sunday in front of the Whole Foods grocery store in West Hollywood to protest the grocer’s decision to sell meat from domestic rabbits.
The demonstration was one of more than 40 around the country. About 20 activists rallied in the parking lot outside the Whole Foods store at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Fairfax. They carried signs and chanted “Whole Foods has blood on its hands!” Demonstrators also collected signatures from shoppers.
The demonstration was an effort to raise the issue before Whole Foods actually makes rabbit meat available at its Los Angeles stores.
“Whole Foods calls rabbits ‘fryers’ and that tells you everything you need to know,” said Carole Raphaelle Davis, West Coast director of Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS), who has been active in West Hollywood animal rights issues.
“Rabbits are not ‘fryers’,” she said. “They are beloved companion animals. Whole Foods is going to face a sustained boycott and protest campaign if they think they can get away with the sale of butchered companion animals in our city. We are the folks who successfully stopped LA pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits from cruel commercial breeding factories. How can we allow Whole Foods to sell them dead?
“We want the names and USDA license numbers of every single dead rabbit supplier so we can examine their facilities and inspection reports. We plan to enact legislation to make the sale of butchered companion animals illegal in our city. The sale of dead rabbits is simply barbaric and Whole Foods is not in step with LA’s progressive stance regarding animal protection.”
The West Hollywood participants said the manager of Whole Foods demanded they move away from the front of the store and to a corner of its parking lot. She said they also were confronted by an unfriendly group of Sheriff’s Department deputies. Davis said a Sheriff’s Department sergeant, whose name she did not obtain, told her that she and others couldn’t demonstrate in the parking lot in front of Whole Foods because it is private property.
“They came up and bullied us,” she said. “They had no idea of the law and what we were and weren’t allowed to do.”
Davis said she told the deputies about a 2007 California Supreme Court decision that allows assembly on private property for the purpose of boycotting a store but that none of the deputies was aware of it.
Davis also said the sergeant continually asked her why she opposed Whole Foods selling rabbit meat and what was wrong with that. She said she replied that she didn’t have to answer his question to exercise her right to demonstrate.
A video of Davis’ conversation with the deputies was posted on one of the protestor’s Facebook page.
The West Hollywood part of the “National Day of Action and Awareness to Protest the Sale of Rabbit Meat at Whole Foods Market” was organized by CAPS and the Bunny World Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit rescue organization and rabbit advocacy group.
In a press release, the protestors said that 2.5 million households now live with pet rabbits. They also said that a phone survey conducted of 39 Northern California Whole Foods stores revealed that only one of the store managers interviewed were aware that they were selling meat from domestic rabbit breeds. Most believed the meat came from either wild rabbits or from New Zealand.
Whole Foods has responded to consumer complaints with a letter claiming “sensitivity to the issue,” while touting the “highest standards” for large scale rabbit meat production and slaughter with “the goal of creating standards for other companies to follow.”