Bunny menu makes patrons hopping mad

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Wellington -

A New Zealand pizza chain noted for provocative advertising is welcoming Easter with a billboard made of 550 rabbit pelts to advertise its rabbit pizza - a special for the holiday weekend.

The billboard for Hell Pizza in Auckland says: “Rabbit pizza. Made from real rabbit. Like this billboard.” It has been branded by some as “sick” and “disgusting”.

Rabbits, introduced to the country in the 19th century, have no native predators in New Zealand, and are regarded as a pest by farmers, particularly in the dry interior of Central Otago in the South Island.

The New Zealand Vegetarian Society said in a statement that while the billboard was confrontational and offensive to many, it might have positive spinoffs.

“If this makes people think more carefully about the food they eat, the billboard may create a positive effect on people's food and lifestyle choices.”

Hell Pizza reassured customers on its Facebook page, saying: “For those who are concerned, we sourced these rabbit skins via a professional animal tanning company, who in turn sourced them from local meat processing companies where the skins are a regular by-product. Our rabbit pizzas are made purely from wild rabbits.”

The pizza chain, which uses “go to Hell” as its tagline, has in the past drawn complaints for including condoms in a mail-out to promote its “Lust” pizza.

In 2011, the company put up a billboard showing a hot cross bun decorated with an inverted pentacle symbol and the slogan: “For a limited time. A bit like Jesus.”

It is destined to be a tough Easter for the rabbit in New Zealand, with the Great Easter Bunny Hunt, an annual cull of rabbits, scheduled to begin in Central Otago at midday on Good Friday.

This year, 300 hunters, divided into teams of 12, will be competing to kill the most rabbits over a 24-hour period.

About 10 000 rabbits are usually killed during the event. - Sapa-dpa

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