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Stockholm's bunnies burned to keep Swedes warm

David Landes · 12 Oct 2009, 14:46

Published: 12 Oct 2009 14:46 GMT+02:00

The decision to use Stockholm’s rabbit cadavers as bioenergy to warm Swedes living in Värmland doesn't sit well with Stockholm-based animal rights activists.

“Those who support the culling of rabbits surely think it’s good to use the bodies for a good cause. But it feels like they’re trying to turn the animals into an industry rather than look at the main problem,” Anna Johannesson of Vilda kaniners värn (‘Society for the Protection of Wild Rabbits’) told the local Vårt Kungsholmen newspaper.

Every year, the city of Stockholm kills off thousands of rabbits in an effort to protect trees and shrubbery in the city’s extensive network of parks and green space.

According to Tommy Tuvunger with the Stockholm Traffic Office, the agency responsible for controlling the city’s rodent and wild animal population, part of the problem rests with delinquent pet owners who decide to release their rabbits into the city’s parks.

“Many of the released rabbits are tame,” he told the newspaper.

Animal control authorities employ a special rifle to shoot the excess rabbits, with most of the culling taking place at dawn when the animals peek out from their holes.

The city usually steps up its rabbit hunting efforts in the autumn as leaves begin to fall from bushes and trees, making it easier to see the rabbits.

Tuvunger explained that it doesn’t take many newly released rabbits to do what rabbits are known for doing, much to the detriment of Stockholm’s efforts to control the size of its rabbit population.

“People who think that the bunnies are cute and cuddly suddenly don’t think they’re as fun anymore and put the animals outside. They think: ‘there they can play with the other rabbits’,” he said.

Last year marked a new record for Stockholm’s rabbit cull, with nearly 6,000 rabbits, mostly from Kungsholmen, being removed from Stockholm’s parks.

But rather than simply disposing of the dead rabbits, the city instead froze them for eventual transport to a special heating plant in Karlskoga in central Sweden, where the bunny bodies are then burned as a form of bioenergy.

Story continues below…

According to Johannesson, Sweden’s animal control authorities aren’t interested in pursuing other options besides killing the rabbits.

“We want to see them start looking at other solutions for the rabbits,” she said, citing the Finnish capital of Helsinki, which employs sprays to make park plants unappetizing as well as a network of shelters for various domesticated animals.

“In Helsinki, where they have the same problem, they’ve come much farther,” Johannesson told Vårt Kungsholmen.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

15:08 October 12, 2009 by farnoxo
I suppose they could ferment them and make alcohol - Bun-vin!
15:15 October 12, 2009 by Rick Methven
I doubt that it was cost effective

From the small amount of heat produced by 6000 bunnies take away

1. salary of bunny catches

2. Electricity to keep them frozen

3. cost of 500 km round trip to take them to Karlskoga

Net result a thumping big loss!
15:43 October 12, 2009 by Balticcrosser

Yes, but:

1. The bunny catchers still need to be employed, as the bunnies are considered pests.

2 & 3. Presumably the bunnies would still need to be disposed of (incinerated?), possibly some distance from Stockholm and in an energy-intensive way. This way, at least the energy released by burning them is harnessed.
15:45 October 12, 2009 by karex
I think that if it is inevitable to put them down, the very least they could do is respect the animal's sacrifice: use everything such as the pelts (which warms for much longer) and the meat as food. Burning them is undignified and disrespectful, to say the least. I also think that there are other, better options than just shooting them, as stated in the article.

For one thing: if pet rabbits cost as much as puppies in Sweden no one would be getting them on a whim and then just releasing when they got tired of them...
16:05 October 12, 2009 by foxpur
@karex - The meat is dangerous as it can't be be secure from tainting, and, TBH the fur quality doesn't look good (no offense to the bunnies) for resale. There are limited uses for the thinner pelts of the wild rabbit.

Those options have already been considered. I say import wolves, make that daily jog MEAN something :)
16:47 October 12, 2009 by craicen
Why not catch them live and release them into the wild if they are native species that is. Or how about food for zoo animals or farm animals. I cannot believe that burning rabbits is worth the energy you would get out of them.

Next, they will be burning human bodies to create energy. NAZIs watch out here come the EcoSwedes.
19:01 October 12, 2009 by crofab
@foxpur: Tainting from what? I don't see why the meat wouldn't be fine.

@craicen: I think it's a great idea to use them as food for zoo animals. What crocodile or lion wouldn't love a rabbit snack? But the comparison to the Nazis was hardly justified....
19:07 October 12, 2009 by craicen

I once had a Swede seriously propose that corpses should be used for fertilizer on fields that it was the Eco friendly was to do and burying them was a burden on the environment. Talk about pushing up daisies.

All sorts of lunancy can result from Ecomania.
20:12 October 12, 2009 by peropaco
why not be creative and send the meat to France? Those Frenchies will eat anything.

Jellied Rabbit



1 Rabbit or a jointed of rabbit

1 Cow Heel

1 Onion

Salt and Pepper


Place the meats into a large saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil,.

Add the onion and season to taste.

Cover and simmer gently for 4 hours, or until cooked and easily drops off the bones, skimming the surface as needed.

Remove any skin, bones or waste.

Season the liquid, pour into mould or basin.

Leave 12 hours to set.
23:09 October 12, 2009 by wxman
Any time an animal dies to provide comfort for a human is a good day. Learn it; accept it.
01:33 October 13, 2009 by Aussie
Do what the Australian government do, introduce, design & develop diseases that target Rabbits.

Mixo (Myxomatosis) was introduced in the early 50s and when the rabbits built up a resistance to that, the Government research labs released the rabbit haemorraghic disease virus RHDV (also known as rabbit calicivirus) on the rabbit population in 1995.
07:52 October 13, 2009 by Marc the Texan
Animal populations cull themselves. The idea of culling by people is pretty ridiculous. It's like making a sacrifice to keep the sun rising every day. The same argument has been made n lots of places in the US. When the man-made cull doesn't happen for whatever reason, populations may expand to a certain level but then contract with or without predators. Culling is a scam folks.
09:56 October 13, 2009 by karex

As everyone knows Australians are the world record holders in screwing up when trying to control nature. No offence, but most initiatives taken in Australia have resulted in worse environmental hazards than the problem they were seeking to fix in the first place, which BTW, had been introduced by people to begin with...

Species were imported and introduced that had no business there in the first place, which just ended up unbalancing nature and others which were native were killed to extinction...
10:39 October 13, 2009 by Osokin
Cull yourselves.
11:20 October 13, 2009 by Åskar
Marc the Texan, the short-tailed rats the article is about don't have any natural predators and they don't belong in the parks so the only way to handle them is to shoot them off. If their carcasses can come to good use so much the better.
13:09 October 13, 2009 by nneville
So it's not "Duck season" it's "whabbit season" - be whery whery quite, I'm huntin 4 whabbits :-)
15:26 October 13, 2009 by soultraveler3
This whole thing seems a little barbaric.

On one hand, maybe it is better to use them to produce energy, but, like someone said above, when you add in the costs of gas and keeping them frozen, is it worth it?

Can't we think of a better way to deal with the overpopulation besides killing them?
17:22 October 13, 2009 by Åskar
You have to get rid of the carcasses somehow and I don't think just dumping them somewhere and let them rot is a very good idea.
20:03 October 13, 2009 by spy

When we introduced Europeans to Australia it was a mistake - the country is far too good for them!
09:17 October 14, 2009 by karex

Funny... if we look at the situation from that perspective I suppose we could say that introducing humans on the planet was a mistake...

Mark the Texan and Askar

I think both of you have a point: animal populations control themselves based on food supply. When it dwindles, litters become smaller and smaller. Sweden is supplementing food for the Arctic Fox population to try to get their numbers up since the little rodents they eat in the region decline some years and thenso does the fox populaiton. However, for this rabbit problem to be controlled in this manner, it would require for them to eat almost the entire park first, then the lack of food would drive their numbers down eventually. I guess that saving the park is the main objective here.

I still think that using them would be better. If the pelts are not good enough for coats they could always make warm house slippers, or interior lining of snow boots. Who cares what the fur inside your boots looks like? The meat could be used for dog or cat food, if humans are afraid to eat it.
11:47 October 14, 2009 by Eric the Red
I can fondly remember those heady days of the Mudlake Idaho Bunny bash. Where every kid with a hocky stick helped in the annual bunny roundup. It was fun really, but you had to wear your pads because the kid next to you usually got all excited and just start swinging. Eventually someone gets hit in the eye, happens every year. The roundup and bash usually takes about three days culminated on the last day with a dance social and dinner of bunny stew. The cost of the roundup is minimal to the locals the kids are all occupied so you kill two bunnies with one swing as they say.

SO you love hockey....there are lots of rabits..... why not combine them and have a bash?
09:53 October 16, 2009 by harold and maude
Perhaps those of us in the US should check out the efficiency of this. Washington is full of "Rats", this could provide fuel for years to come.
14:17 October 16, 2009 by 3of5
This is completely wrong!

Corpses are unsuitable as burnable biomass. The energy required to evaporate the water in any Human/animal corpse and most plants (as long they are not yet dried as firewood is) far surpasses the energy gotten from burning the volatile elements of this biomass.

When a human body is cremated (where religion allows it) this energy is normally supplied as methane or oil. You cannot get energy out of this process, you have to put energy into to make it work.

In Waste to energy plants energy is derived from the burning of plastics and paper mainly, if biological waste is burned, it lowers the yield of the plant (witch is often used in older plants to cool the burning chamber, because the energy yield per volume of waste has skyrocketed in the last 30 jears because of the questionable success of plastic as disposable packaging. It's far better though to collect biomatter seperately and ferment it to produce biogas and new soil (as long we are speaking vegetables, rotting meat mainly produces toxic substances, thats why flesh is burned).

And since the hunted down bunnies are not from the woods but have dwelled in the city they might have eaten somehing toxic (as grass near a road) they cannot be eaten (which would be the best use of meat already produced) therefore they must rot somewhere (like six feet under) or be cremated.

You gain no energy from the cremation, it costs you energy, but you have to do it, since you cannot let the bunnies live, since they would eat the crops on the fields and die and rot on the streets in the winter. Better to cull and cremate them.

remember: the engineer is always right (italian proverb)
16:50 October 16, 2009 by Sean Walsh
As 3of5 correctly says, you use up more energy cremating a body than you gain from doing so. However, it might surprise some of you to know that in at least one crematorium in Stockholm a significant portion of the waste heat from the cremation of humans is transferred into the distict heating network and used to heat the homes of Stockholm residents. How is that for recyling?
17:17 October 16, 2009 by ADM
"Next, they will be burning human bodies to create energy. NAZIs watch out here come the EcoSwedes".

We may be headed that way here in the US. With "rationed" universal healthcare, the elderly, terminally ill, and others not "cost effective" to society will be killed and the bodies will start piling up. You could add all the murdered babies from partial-birth abortions. Through advances in technology, the corpses could be a great source of fuel for an energy starved nation. Or, as in Soylent Green, they could be turned into little green wafers for the rest of us to munch on. Heck, maybe they'll serve double duty, with certain "conditions" determining whether they're food or fuel. An added benefit will be "valuable" land not being wasted on any more cemeteries.
03:25 October 20, 2009 by Jagalskaremil
So... energizer bunnies?
14:12 October 21, 2009 by Tim 2346
I think this is really gross. As an African, from a continent where millions of people are staving and hundreds die every year from lack of food, Sweden kills wild rabbits and BURNS them!! This is obscene. The veneer of civilization is very thin!
20:08 October 27, 2009 by tiniyogini
I Agree with Tim2346... Just think how many Tummy's this meat could fill. If the intent is to kill... And minds can't be changed to save the bunnies, what better way to utilize the critters by feeding those who are hungry.
20:18 November 9, 2009 by RabbitLove
This is so sickening! I thought the Swedes were more intelligent and 'advanced' than so many other countries in this world. Now, you prove you are not. It is horrendous for you to think that it is fine to kill living creatures that are 'companion animals', just like dogs and cats, and have the same feelings and emotions as dogs and cats - and humans. To be a more 'advanced' country, try spaying and neutering rabbits (it helps them live longer too), and also educating people about rabbits. They are not 'throw away' pets, or good 'first pets' for children, and they have medical needs like dogs and cats. Please quit this barbaric way of dealing with feral rabbits! Show the world you really are the 'advanced' country you once were!
06:58 November 16, 2009 by erika Eriksson Ciment
I used to live in Sweden and now I'm especially happy that I don't live in your disgusting fascistic country. Burning bunnies! You've all gone insane!

Shame on you!!!! You are a revolting backward country if you allow such horrible cruel acts of violence on innocent animals.
14:21 January 1, 2010 by marbund1
In the UK we typically associate rabbits with a childrens program called Teletubbies. The rabbits exist in close harmony with the big fluffy characters and in some vague and, as yet unexplained fashion, educate our youngest group of TV addicts.

Perhaps I should suggest to the program makers that we could teach the children all about the importance of serious green issues by getting the teletubbies to club the rabbits to death and then throw them on a bonfire to keep warm, all on prime time TV!

To the serious side. We have existed with rabbits since the Roman army introduced them to the UK in th first century BC. Most people have tended to find that if you leave the wildlife alone that it quickly becomes a stable population, occaisonaly fluctuating due to changes in natural predation. Every time man takes a hand in the destiny of a species then nature will come straight back with a better solution to meet the specific problem at hand, hence super-bunnies in Australia.

What is so wrong with a natural population of very cute and harmless animals that require no maintenance. In fact the rabbits will reduce the cities use of petrochemicals by chomping the grass and other vegitation as oposed to using mowers, reducing the plants to valuable fertiliser in the process.

Wil you be burning Elk next? I believe they have a higher calorific content!
17:47 May 24, 2013 by TheWolfHowling
I'm not sure how exactly that would work.

Wouldn't the bodies be too wet to be burnt efficiently? Or do they like dry them out in the sun first?

Or are the rabbits just a cheap feedstock used in some kind of process that makes the fuel used? Anaerobic digestion, for example.

Either way, it give ll new meaning to the term 'Bunny Boiler'
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