Eating rabbits isn’t a real Easter tradition, but that hasn’t stopped Hell Pizza from adding rabbit pizza to their menu this year. And that’s not even the strange part of this story. What’s really unusual is their marketing strategy. The New Zealand based pizza chain has put up billboards completely covered with real rabbit hides. The posters read: ‘New for Easter. Rabbit Pizza. Made from Real Rabbit. Like this Billboard’.
If you find that gross, you aren’t alone. The restaurant has been receiving severe backlash from locals ever since the billboards went up at multiple locations. But the folks at Hell Pizza are totally unapologetic. They’ve defended their PR stunt on their 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.”
General manager Ben Cumming called rabbit meat one of the healthiest meats in the world. “Eating rabbit meat isn’t just environmentally sustainable – it’s actually helping to reduce pests,” he said. “It has a beautiful, subtle flavor and is a great match for the other ingredients on the pizza. You get chunks of the smoky rabbit flavor complimented by sweet and slightly spicy beetroot and horopito relish, then bursts of cream cheese and toasted pine nuts which linger on the taste buds afterwards. We think it’s going to go down really well.”
Photo: Hell Pizza/Facebook
The chain also clarified that all the rabbit pelts used on the boards were ethically sourced. “For those who are concerned, we sourced these rabbit skins via a professional tanning company, who in turn sourced them from local meat processing companies where skins are a regular by-product.” But a lot of people don’t find the restaurant’s justifications convincing.
“Hell Pizza may be in trouble for more than the skinned rabbits rotting on its unappetizing billboard, because contrary to its claims, there is nothing ‘ethical’ about how the rabbits were slaughtered.” said Mimi Bekhech, associate director of PETA UK. “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,” she added.
Photo: Hell Pizza/Facebook
The restaurant owners, however, seem completely unfazed by all the criticism. They’re even planning a new advertising scheme – mailing out ‘lost bunny’ posters to thousands of homes to promote the pizzas. In fact, the restaurant is no stranger to controversy. They were in the news in 2006 when they released pizzas named after the seven deadly sins. The ‘Lust Pizza’ was advertised by mailing out 17,000 condoms to locals. In 2008, Hell Pizza bought a young man’s soul for a mere $3,800. Head of marketing Rachel Allison visited 24-year-old Walter Scott to pick up the deed declaring Hell Pizza the new owners of the soul.
Hell Pizza was established in 1996 and now has branches in Korea, UK, Canada and India. They might have gotten away with a lot, but things haven’t always worked out for them. In 2008, the company had to apologize for an ad that featured Heath Ledger and the Queen Mother dancing on gravestones. When they released a new line of ‘misfortune cookies’ in 2011, one customer received a note reading: ‘you will marry a transgender’. The chain was forced to apologize again, but they don’t seem to have learned their lesson. Well, I suppose Hell Pizza is one of those places that will try just about anything to stay in the news.
via National Post