Yesterday, a news story broke about a Danish radio host, Asger Juhl, who clubbed and strangled a nine-week old rabbit named Allan on air. Juhl, and the station's chief, Jorgen Ramskov, explained to the press that he killed (and later cooked and ate) the rabbit in order to highlight the Danish people's "hypocrisy when it comes to animal welfare." In other words, the station wanted to see how outraged people would get about a rabbit - i.e. a "cute" animal - being slaughtered and eaten, when they don't seem to show any outrage at all of the other animals who are slaughtered for food in Denmark every day.
According to Ramskov, "At least in Denmark, we seem to regard animal welfare as a nice thing for certain animals - and frankly don't care when it comes to normal livestock: cows, pigs, lambs, chickens."
Here's why killing Allan in order to show people's hypocrisy about animal welfare was wrong.
Even putting aside the fact that killing one animal to show that there is a problem with killing other animals is problematic (as Ricky Gervais tweeted, "I just battered a Danish DJ to death with a bicycle pump to show how terrible murder is"), the radio show picked a rabbit to kill because they knew it would outrage people - because rabbits are cute. But they also implied that rabbits are not regularly slaughtered for food, either in Denmark or elsewhere: Ramskov said that the public doesn't care "when it comes to normal livestock: cows, pigs, lambs, chickens" (emphasis mine).
But in Denmark, as elsewhere, rabbits are normal livestock.
That is, besides being popular companion animals, they are killed and eaten in Denmark. Denmark, in fact, produces 5,000 to 19,000 tons of rabbit meat per year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (The European Union produced 489,569 tons in 2012 alone.) They are also raised and slaughtered for fur, which is quite popular in Denmark, and they are hunted as well. As Danish animal rights group Anima shows, the conditions in which rabbits raised for fur live and die are horrific.
In all of these instances in which rabbits are killed, there is no outrage on behalf of the Danish public. The public was simply horrified at the killing of a single animal live, on air, by smashing his head in with a bicycle pump.
Do we really need to kill an animal in such a fashion to make a point that is already clear: people only care about animal deaths when they see them or are directly confronted by them.
Killing Allan will not help any of the "normal" livestock being killed each day in Denmark. Nor will it help the rabbits who are also killed in Denmark each day: for food, for fur, and for entertainment. In fact, both Allan's killing, and the radio station's response to the public anger, will only help to further obscure the fact that rabbits are already killed by the millions, for a variety of purposes, in Denmark and elsewhere, and will continue to be killed, regardless of Allan's death at Radio 24sy.
The actions of the people at Radio 24sy won't help stop any killings at all, and won't matter a bit to any of the millions of animals killed each year in Denmark. But the actions yesterday did matter to one animal: Allan, who lost his life in a pointless display.