Just in time for Easter, the New Zealand pizza chain Hell Pizza created a controversial billboard advertising its newest pizza topping, smoked rabbit, by covering the billboard with real rabbit pelts and the tagline:
“Rabbit Pizza. Made from real rabbit. Like this billboard.”
As you can imagine, it received quite a bit of criticism from animal activists and others offended by the use of rabbit skins.
Although the billboard was obviously designed to be provocative, Hell Pizza had a very clear stance and was quick to defend itself on Facebook by pointing out that rabbits are considered environmentally devastating pests in New Zealand, and the pelts were a regular by-product from a local meat processing company. In addition, only wild rabbit meat, not farmed, is used on their pizza.
The New Zealand Vegetarian Society, which originally called the billboard “deplorable” later issued a statement saying:
“While people insist on eating animals, using wild South Island rabbits (which Hell has confirmed they are) who are causing significant environmental damage is perhaps a more ethical choice than farming an animal to turn into food. The billboard, though confrontational and offensive to many, did not create any further harm to animals.”
In this case, Hell Pizza chose to be proactive with their controversial billboard advertising, and received international attention for their efforts, but had a clear and immediate response to the controversy, which I am sure they expected.