Bunny Power!

What is a convenient way to get rid of an overpopulation of rabbits and stay warm at the same time?  Well, Sweden has found the answer!  Starting in 2006, the country began controlling its multiplying rabbit population and using the resulting carcasses to fuel thermal power plants.  While some may view this idea as gruesome and inhumane, others praise the plan as an inventive way of solving two problems at once.


To this day, Sweden has used well over 6,000 rabbits annually to fuel its heating centers [1].  The country contends that 100,000 tons of raw materials can create enough heat for 11,000 homes annually [2].  That’s a lot of bunny power!  The aim of the project is not only to control growing rabbit populations, which started by the release of a few household pets into a park, but also to prevent any threats of contamination posed by the massive amount of excrement to nearby residents.  As a plus, the program also reduces landfill waste that would have resulted from population control measures [2]!



But Sweden has gotten more heat from its bunny power than expected.  People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) responded to Sweden’s actions in outrage, claiming gross mistreatment of the rabbits [2].  Others question the overall productivity of the bunny burning, taking into account the energy used for bullets, gunpowder, freezing preparation, and transportation before the fuel even makes it to the boiler. 

But Sweden appears happy with the ‘success’ of the program and intends to continue; the country has even expanded its animal biofuel plant fuel mix to include dead cats, cows, deer, horses, and slaughterhouse waste products [1].  The future of Sweden’s biofuel initiative looks optimistic, especially given the prolific nature of its fuel!





[3] http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/2009/10/15/Sweden-Burns-Bunnies-to-Generate-Electricityand-Outrage.aspx

[4] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFHnXobZxjY



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5 responses to “Bunny Power!

  1. This is a very interesting concept because it relieves the problem of an excessive animal population, while also delivering needed energy to sweden; and it was mentioned in Professor Webber’s class. Something that PETA should take into account other than just the lives of these animals is the fact that there is an overpopulation issue for swedish citizens and the animals themselves. Not only are these animals placing a burden on the people who live in sweden, but they would most likely suffer unfavorable conditions due to lack of an available food supply. Some would even argue that a quick and painless death is much better than one by starvation. Also, the fact that PETA accounts for the energy spent into making bullets is outrageous. The bullets were going to be made regardless assuming the overpopulation issue is not increasing the bullet demand. Hopefully, PETA will not alter this operation and Sweden will continue to two kill birds with one stone and generate enough energy from biofuel to power thousands of homes annually.
    Until a better solution can be developed, I feel this biofuel operation should continue. “In Helsinki, where they have the same problem, they’ve come much farther” says Johannesson told Vårt Kungsholmen. This leads us to believe that burning the bunnies for biofuel is a popular idea and a method that could be employed in other countries. If other countries were to employ this, animal overpopulation issues could be eased and energy could be provided in decent quantities. The energy needs of the people greatly outweigh the humane issues with this solution



  2. energyintheenvironment

    Interesting topic. It’s a moral dilemma. And even more so, calls into question how far people will go to be able to turn their lights on and/or be able to watch Monday Night Football, etc…
    I have a couple questions, though:
    1.) Do you know if there have been any studies regarding the carbon impact of burning the bunnies? Combustion ought to result in a certain amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Is this output of greenhouse gases less than that of burning a different fuel for the same amount of energy? What if the ammunition or materials for trapping the bunnies were factored in to the calculation of the output of greenhouse gases? Has the entire cost/impact of bunny slaughter been evaluated or did the Swedish company just want to look at the two issues (overpopulation and energy needs) and stop there?
    2.) The Scientific American blog also says that the company in Sweden that burns bunnies for fuel also ships in dead cats, cows, deer, and horses to the plant when bunnies are scarce. Do you have any idea where they ship the other animals from? Burning the carcasses for fuel seems like an economical way to get rid of the animals’ remains at first; however, the extra energy needed to ship the animals might actually outweigh the energy increase from turning the bodies into fuel… depending on the distance traveled. Basically, the Swedish subsidiary is consuming energy to try to produce energy in an innovative, possibly environmentally friendly way. Does it result in a net positive output of energy? And is the pollution from both combustion of fuel used to transport animals and the output of burning the animals less than the pollution for burning another fuel for the same net energy output?

    I think these questions needed to get answered before PETA even had a chance to step in about the treatment of animals. If the operation is not net energy positive and comparatively beneficial for the environment than other fuels, the latter should be chosen over bunny or other animal fuel. If science does not even prevail, compassion need not step in to save the day for the bunnies.

  3. katpatcar

    The motivation behind this idea was “We’re going to have to kill the bunnies anyways. Let’s get some energy out of it” and not “We need more fuel for heat. Let’s burn bunnies!”. I find the practice perfectly acceptable for the reasons stated in the article and the other comments- it’s a resourceful solution to an animal population problem. PETA doesn’t want any animal to suffer in anyway at any point in their life. Obviously, PETA was going to be against this bunny-burning-for-heat practice.

    However, if the same argument (if there is an existing animal population problem, where the population must be killed, then burning their bodies for heat is a good solution because some use is obtained in their death) is made for stray/feral dogs and cats here in America, I sense that a great many people would be outraged and against the practice. Why? Simply because there are lots of people who love cats and dogs.

    An estimated 100 million feral cats and dogs live in the U.S. [1]. PETA president, Ingrid Newkirk, has stated in regards to feral cats, “They need to be taken off the street and if that means humanely euthanizing them, that’s better than the short, brutish life they’ll suffer while homeless” [1].

    According to the Humane Society, 3-4 million cats and dogs are euthanized at animal shelters each year [2].

    Clearly, there is a potential for biofuel.

    Whether or not you believe in animal euthanasia, if the animals are going to be put down, burning them for heat does seem pragmatic. Though this argument makes complete sense in my head, there is something about it that doesn’t seem entirely right. What do you think?

    [1] http://www.salon.com/2012/01/14/the_secret_lives_of_feral_dogs/singleton/#comments

  4. stconover

    Thank you for this riveting topic.

    It appears that using alternative biosources for fuel is an emerging market. Using animal products as fuel has recently grown because the EU passed a law making animal carcass disposal in landfills illegal. [1] If animal and animal by-products become animal waste, they cannot be simply thrown away. Animal based products must be incinerated, and cities have utilized this energy surplus to generate electricity.

    Bunnies are actually a very small portion of the amount of animal products used for this purpose. In addition, reducing bio-source landfill disposal helps cities like Stockholm reach green energy goals [1].

    When growing up in Denton I experienced pest control that was perfectly accepted. Passing by a park less than a mile away from my house, policemen stood at the side of the lake shooting into a swampy edge. They were shooting snakes which had overpopulated the human-made park and lake recreational area. Animal removal is not a new movement, nor are the methods of dealing with bunnies any different from practices used for the last century. [2]

    I believe that if these sources of bioenergy, such as expired meat products and overpopulated bunnies, become excess on their own, it is acceptable to utilize their byproducts from a consequence mandated by the EU. However, if the bunnies were bred to be burned or excessive expired meat was intentionally made to be burned, that is when the situation would become inhumane. The likelihood of this happening, though, because it does not make economic sense, is highly unlikely.

    [1] http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1941230,00.html
    [2] http://www.allstateanimalcontrol.com/cities.php?city=Denton&state=Texas

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