Bunnies for Biofuel: How Sweden Heats its Homes

Thousands of rabbits, some of them pets abandoned by their owners, are being shot, deep-frozen and burned in a heating plant in Sweden, a professional hunter who works for the city of Stockholm said on Tuesday.

The center of the Swedish capital is being plagued by thousands of rabbits, some of them wild and some of them stray pets, and 3,000 have been culled this year, down from 6,000 in 2008, Tommy Tuvunger, who hunts rodents for the Stockholm city administration, told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

"We are shooting rabbits in Stockholm center, they are a very big problem," said Tuvunger. The rabbits are eating their way through the city's central parks. "Once culled, the rabbits are frozen and when we have enough; a contractor comes and takes them away. "

Tuvunger said it was normal for animal carcasses to be processed for fuel. "The contractor doesn't just pick up rabbits, he also picks up cats, deer, horses and cows," said Tuvunger.

The frozen bunnies are shipped to a heating plant in Karlskoga in central Sweden which uses them as biofuel and incinerates them to heat homes, media reports said. A spokeswoman for the plant declined to comment. The plant's supplier, Konvex, a company that produces biofuels from animals, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Konvex is a subsidiary of Danish group Daka Biodiesel, which says on its Web site that it produces and markets biodiesel and bio fuel oil using animal fat extracted from "by-products from slaughterhouses and primary agriculture."

Practice Receives Criticism

The practice of killing rabbits and incinerating has been criticized by Sweden's Society for the Protection of Wild Rabbits.

"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 the society told VĂ¥rt Kungsholmen newspaper, news Web site The Local reported

Johannesson said there other methods of getting rid of rabbits besides killing them, such as spraying park plants with a chemical that makes them unappetizing to rabbits.

But Tuvunger says that doesn't work. "If you do that you only move the problem 100 meters away."

Karl Szmolinsky, one of Germany's best-known breeders who has won prizes for his giant rabbits, said he couldn't imagine using the animals for biofuel. "I would never have given mine away for that," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE. Szmolinsky, who gained fame for exporting several rabbits to North Korea, has given up breeding due to illness in the family.

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