STOCKHOLM (Reuters Life!) - Forget bunny boiling jealous rages and rapacious butchers. The biggest threats to Peter Rabbit's Swedish cousins are the cold, the cull and their flammable cadavers.
The city of Stockholm shoots thousands of wild rabbits spread across the green spaces of the Swedish capital and sends their bodies to be burned as heating fuel, a practice which has enraged animal rights groups.
City official Mats Freij said Stockholm killed 6,000 wild rabbits last year and has culled 3,000 so far this year, but said a subcontractor decided to use the cadavers as fuel.
"One should put this in the perspective that we (humans) are actually cremated ourselves and that generates a completely different reaction," Freij said in response to criticism.
Animal Rights Sweden spokeswoman Lise-Lott Alsenius questioned whether the practice was humane or ethical and suggested neutering the male rabbits as an alternative method of holding down the population.
"One at least has to evaluate what the alternatives are to just simply shooting them," she said.
Konvex, the company handling the operation, said the rabbits were ground up with the cadavers of other beasts, mainly farm animals such as cows which have been deemed unfit for human consumption, reduced to flammable form and incinerated.
"Just as with us people ... the bodies contain a lot of fat and fat has exactly the same energy content as normal heating oil for instance," Konvex Chief Executive Leo Virta said.
Editing by Paul Casciato