It's a good time to be a bunny. A contest in which children toss dead rabbits for distance has been a tradition in Waiau, New Zealand for decades. It has been canceled this year.
This weekend the town hold its annual pig hunt, the highlight of the local social calendar. The three day event includes a pig hunt followed by a communal slaughter and pig roast. The principal children's portion of the festival was a bunny toss. A bunny toss is exactly what it sounds like: Local children would compete to see who could hurl a bunny the furthest. This weekend the pig hunt goes on without the traditional children's component.
Criticism from the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RNZSPCA) led to the cancellation of the traditional event..Rhetorically, Charles Cadwallader, an animal cruelty inspector with the charity, asked Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) interviewers, ""Do you throw your dead grandmother around for a joke at her funeral?" Hoping to avoid controversy and negative publicity the organizers of the event chose to cancel the bunny toss.
In their defense they did point out that the traditional celebratory killing of pigs and rabbits reflected the town's rural history. Both pigs and bunnies are regarded as pests in this part of New Zealand due to their impact on sheep grazing land and are regularly hunted, killed or culled.
Many residents of Australia and New Zealand were outraged at the cancellation and the actions of the RNZSPCA. One commentator on the ABC website noted simply, "Dead bunny = no pain or distress = no chance of cruelty when thrown." This comment followed the statement made by Cadwallader about 'dead grandmother' tossing.
In related bunny news the city of Stockholm has agreed to stop burning bunny cadavers for fuel in in the Varmland Heating Plant. As in Waiau, the bunnies are a pest and destroy vegetation in urban parks and greenspaces. Therefore, the city regularly culls them, freezes the cadavers and ships them to the heating plant to be cremated. Local animal rights activists objected so strongly that the city agreed to stop using them as fuel although the cull continues.