Skip to main content
opinion

Asger Juhl may now be the most loathed person in certain corners of the world, more hated than the Al Capones who run professional soccer, more scorned than all the vast legions of Duggars put together. A radio host barely known outside Denmark, Mr. Juhl this week rose to infamy with a bloody stunt he pulled live on his radio show.

(Warning: The deaths of adorable creatures, and some slightly less photogenic ones, will be described in this column. If you're eating rabbit for breakfast you should be okay, but then you're clearly already a bit of a freak.)

In his radio studio, Mr. Juhl took a nine-week-old rabbit, which had already suffered the indignity of being named Allan, out of a box. He gazed deep into its limpid eyes. An animal-rights activist who had been invited onto the show to talk about the hypocrisy of the way Western society views animals and meat, sensed something was up. She began to chase Mr. Juhl around the studio, and after failing to rescue Allan, stormed out.

If you've seen any Halloween movies, you know where this is heading. Mr. Juhl took a metal bicycle pump and bashed Allan over the head with it three times. Later, he took the corpse home, skinned it in front of his children (they were "very interested," he told the BBC) and ate it for dinner. "It was nice," he said, with the phlegmatic detachment I associate with Scandinavians. After all, it was a Danish zoo that dissected the young giraffe Marius in front of a crowd of children and enraged an animal-loving world.

If you've been anywhere near social media over the past few years, you will also know what happened next. Mr. Juhl and his children were threatened with death, by people who perhaps do not have a keen sense of irony. One critic condemned the killing of "an innocent rabbit," as if some rabbits are guilty of crimes. (That is ridiculous; only cats are guilty, all the time.)

A petition calling for Mr. Juhl to be fired has been signed nearly 30,000 times. He was branded "bunny butcher" on TV news. "Bunny batterer should be jailed," a headline in a British newspaper ran. The comedian Ricky Gervais, an animal lover, tweeted, "I just battered a Danish DJ to death with a bicycle pump to show how terrible murder is."

The problem with that analogy is that we don't, during the normal course of things, kill humans in order to eat them. Some of us do eat rabbits, and cows, lambs, pigs and fish. Many of them die in horrible, unsavoury ways that are hidden from public view, and our very enjoyment of their flesh is contingent upon not thinking how they died or how miserable they were when alive.

Mr. Juhl explained the stunt this way: "I did it to show the hypocrisy in the debate. Many people are outraged by what I did. At the same time many of these people will eat meat. And when they eat meat, an animal will die.

"You cannot say, 'It's terrible to kill an animal,' and then eat meat. These things are connected."

While I don't approve of Mr. Juhl's crude methods, I do agree with his sentiments. I'm one of the hypocrites he speaks about – unable to kill even a spider, I'll chow down on a BLT without worrying about the unhappy, short life of my bacon (and yes, I do try to buy free-range meat from local farms. It's still killed for my pleasure).

The Danish bunnycide shone a light on many irrational facets of our relationship with food animals: How the lone creature is somehow more worthy of pity than the collective (may I remind you of the story of Mickey the Lobster, abandoned in an Ontario parking lot, who was about to be flown back to the Atlantic Ocean thanks to the charity of Samaritans when he expired at a local humane society); how the quest for cheap meat must, in the end, be paid for with some measure of brutality; how some animals, such as rabbits and horses, should be spared from our plates because of their cuteness or nobility.

All manner of animals die for our tacos and chicken Caesar salads in situations just as nasty as Allan's, but far less public. In March, CTV's investigative program W5 ran an exposé of an Ontario chicken slaughterhouse that had been filmed by the undercover animal-rights outfit Mercy for Animals.

This video, like Mercy for Animals's previous exposés of pig and cattle farms, showed horrible abuse of the chickens before they died – their wings and legs broken, their heads crushed. It was hardly the "humane" standard of killing that Canada's agriculture industry promises. I could only stand to watch parts of it (see "hypocrite," above).

As the comedian John Oliver said in a recent takedown of repulsive conditions in the U.S. poultry industry, for birds and humans alike, "Chickens are like reality-TV stars: The happier they are, the less money they're worth."

That's not a pleasant truth and it happens in the dark.