It’s the Easter Bunny’s worst nightmare.
New Zealand based pizza chain Hell Pizza is drumming up some publicity for its Easter special, a pizza featuring rabbit meat, by erecting a billboard made of real rabbit fur.
“New for Easter,” the billboard reads. “Rabbit Pizza. Made from real rabbit. Like this billboard.”
The pizza chain, which has two locations in British Columbia, is no stranger to controversy, which may explain why the restaurant saw fit to justify its use of the bunny pelts as a PR stunt even before the bulk of backlash started rolling in.
“A note on our billboard,” Hell Pizza wrote in a post on its Facebook page “As well as being a delicious meat, and even quite cute, rabbits are unfortunately also a noted pest that is damaging to the New Zealand environment, particularly in the South Island.”
The restaurant clarifies that the rabbit pelts are ethically sources from “a professional animal tanning company, who in turn sourced them from local meat processing companies where the skins are a regular by-product.”
Ben Cumming, Hell Pizza’s general manager, said that rabbits are one of the healthiest meats available, and thinks that this new pizza will do very well.
“Eating rabbit meat isn’t just environmentally sustainable – it’s actually helping to reduce pests,” said Cumming, telling New Zealand marketing publication Stop Press that the chain also plans to mail out “lost bunny” posters to thousands of homes in yet another twisted ad scheme to promote the rabbit pies.
PETA UK Associate Director Mimi Bekhech, however, is not pleased with the stunt.
“Hell Pizza may be in trouble for more than the skinned rabbits rotting on its unappetizing billboard,” she said in an interview with The Huffington Post, “because contrary to its claims, there is nothing ‘ethical’ about how the rabbits were slaughtered.”
“As for the name, ‘Hell’ sounds about right, because it’s what the rabbits likely experienced before they were made part of this tacky PR stunt.”
Hell Pizza is likely taking the criticism in stride, having previously courted controversy with its marketing schemes.
In 2006, the chain promoted its “Lust Pizza” – by mailing out 17,000 condoms. Two years later, a man named Walter Scott, 24, struck a deal with the pizza company to sell his soul to them for $3,800. Rachael Allison, head of marketing for Hell Pizza, flew to his home town to pick up his “soul” (or at least the deed that made Hell Pizza the new owners).
But it hasn’t always worked out for Hell Pizza: In 2011, the chain was forced to apologize after including a note reading “you will marry a transgender” in its “misfortune cookies.”
Hell Pizza was established in 1996 in Kelburn, New Zealand.