A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

New Zealand’s Easter Bunny from Hell


The company is called Hell Pizza. And the billboard for its latest advertising campaign is made of rabbit pelts – an idea that’s certainly straight from hell.

It’s not just that the whole notion is so gross, so grotesque, so disrespectful. There’s much more going on here than meets the average eye.

In a sense, it’s no worse really than using the skins of animals for leather chairs, snakeskin bags, calfskin vests, fur wraps and crocodile trimmings. And since the rabbits are all going to be eaten away, some people might logically ask “Why waste the skins?”

Beyond that, in a country, New Zealand, where rabbits are an out-of control “invasive species” (just like humans), why not at least eat them and “use” them rather than breeding more sheep? But our relationship with our fellow animals is so contorted and complicated that it’s hard to sort any of this out. So here’s a different thought:

The Easter Bunny is all about the return of life. All the symbols of the spring festivals are to do with life and rebirth:

  • Rabbits, since they breed like rabbits;
  • Eggs, the most basic symbol of new life;
  • The sacred king who dies but returns from the dead;
  • The Hebrew slaves who return from the “underworld” of Egypt;
  • Persephone, the daughter of the harvest goddess Demeter, who goes down into Hades in the fall but returns in spring.

persephone-041714Easter itself is named after one of the Middle Eastern goddesses of fertility, known variously as Eoster, Ishtar and Astarte. Before the invasions of male-dominated herding tribes like the Hebrews, much of the ancient Middle East was female-centered. The Hebrew Bible itself is in part a history of those invasions and how the nomadic patriarchal tribes laid waste to the land, the crops and the animals, killed the people or took them as slaves, and replaced the goddesses with a male tribal deity who would permit “no other gods before Me.” (Long before the Hebrews adopted him, Yahweh was known by the native societies as the consort or son of the goddess.)

But even though the old religions were demolished, the spring festivals endured. How could they not? They were so much more real and basic, and resonated so much deeper than a male sky god bent on their destruction.

What a terrible irony that the sacred animal who, for thousands of years, represented life and rebirth becomes a symbol of death.And so the Easter Bunny lived on – if only, in the end, as another empty shopping event.

In New Zealand right now, of course, it isn’t even spring; it’s fall. So celebrating the fertility goddess Easter in April is even more totally disconnected from the land and real life and living.

But back to pizza.

What a terrible irony that the sacred animal who, for thousands of years, represented life and rebirth becomes a symbol of death: thousands of skins of rabbits glued to a billboard to advertise a new flavor of pizza with bits of rabbit meat as a topping, all brought to us courtesy of the Hell Pizza company.

What does it tell us about our industrial society when animals are skinned for a billboard? When one of the most ancient symbols of life and rebirth is turned into pizza topping. When rabbits are seen as nothing more than an “invasive species.” When Easter eggs come from factory farms that are hell-on-earth for the hens who lay them. When the celebration of life is reduced to the likes of mass slaughter in New Zealand and drunken, gross spring breaks in Florida.

So let’s at least take a moment, if you’re handing out chocolate bunnies or holding Easter egg races or going to your place of worship, to give a thought to the true Easter Bunny.

And perhaps do something that celebrates, protects and supports life in all its wondrous ways, rather than the great death machine of our modern age.