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Bunny billboard causes offence

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 16:59 16/04/2014

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A furry billboard is getting under the skin of animal lovers worldwide.

The sign, made of about 550 rabbit pelts, advertises Hell Pizza's new rabbit pizza and was put up in the Auckland suburb of Parnell on Friday, timed to coincide with Easter.

The concept has drawn the social and mainstream media spotlight worldwide, including the website of Time.

Sarah Nutbrown drives past the billboard on the way to her Parnell office every day.

It was offensive, she said.

"When I first saw it I was disgusted ... surely there are more clever ways of making people pay attention," Nutbrown said.

"There's nothing wrong with rabbit pizza. It's the idea of having exploited the animals just for a bit of controversy that is the real issue. And particularly just before Easter - it's really distasteful."

Auckland University Animal Rights Group leaders Avril McIntyre and Niccola Davies said the sign was repulsive but did have some positive attributes.

"You've already killed the rabbit and skinned it so why display it?" Davies asked.

"If people did that to a cat there would be outrage.

"I can see what they're trying to achieve with the shock factor. To me it's irresponsible, disrespectful and disgusting but at the same time it's bringing out a lot of important issues."

McIntyre formed the group in 2013 after volunteering with national animal rights organisation Safe (Save Animals From Exploitation).

She said the conversations around the billboard were what the group was focusing on.

"We definitely don't agree with it but it is good in one kind of way," McIntyre said.

"It will make people stop and think about it."

Parnell Community Committee chairman Luke Nuie said the billboard was a novel idea.

The suburb was a very creative quarter and the sign demonstrated that kind of thinking, Nuie said.

"I think it's something out of the ordinary. Rabbits are not protected. It's all about creativity and doing something different."

New Zealand Vegetarian Society trademark manager Stephanie Lane said the billboard was confrontational and in bad taste.

"To treat once-living animals with irreverence is something the New Zealand Vegetarian Society could never condone."

Hell Pizza general manager Ben Cumming said the company had not set out to offend people.

Rabbits were a noted pest in New Zealand and people were encouraged to hunt them year-round, he said.

The company sourced the skins from a tanning company, which had got them from a meat processing company, Cumming said.

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"It is a byproduct. That's the message we've been trying to get across. It's not like they have been farmed for the mere reason of creating a billboard."

The company was surprised by the amount of feedback it has received.

A company Facebook post about the sign has more than 500 comments and has been shared 350 times.

"To be honest we were expecting some discussion and feedback, but were surprised with just how much feedback there has been," Cumming said.

"The purpose is always to make people smile and have some fun in our business. But we accept that with this strategy it's very difficult to have a 100 per cent positive response."

- Fairfax Media

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