Sweden uses bunnies as biofuel? That sounds pretty horrific at first, but after doing some research on the topic, I can see where they are coming from. In the past several years, the rabbit population has exploded in Stockholm, Sweden’s capital. These bunnies are not native to Sweden but have grown in population due to domestic rabbits being released into public parks. It might sound like a good thing that owners are freeing their pet bunnies into the wild instead of ignoring them and not giving them the attention they need.
However, these rabbits are multiplying quickly and are becoming detrimental to the environment in the Swedish capital. They are quickly mowing down the parks they now inhabit. The simplest and easiest solution to this problem was to just kill the rabbits. In 2008, the animal control authorities culled 6,000 rabbits, according to Tommy Tunvuynger who is the spokesman for the Stockholm Traffic Office (the agency responsible for rodent and wild animal population control in the city). 
The city actually started killing the bunnies in 2006, but they realized that there was another problem that arose: where would they get rid of the carcasses? The European Union had already passed a law that made it illegal to dump raw meat or carcasses into landfills, so what could the city do?  And the obvious answer to them was to freeze the bunnies after killing them and incinerate them as fuel to heat buildings and homes.
Of course, many Swedes were flabbergasted and enraged by the city’s decision. Anna Johanneson from the Society for the Protection of Wild Rabbits said that “[i]t feels like they’re trying to turn the animals into an industry rather than look at the main problem.”  She and many other animal rights advocates have suggested other options to solve the problem, such as spraying the parks with chemicals that would make the plants unappetizing to the bunnies. Tuvuynger replies that “[i]f you do that you only move the problem 100 meters away. Overpopulation is not good for the animals’ well-being because they use up limited natural resources for survival, so shooting them is the only answer.” 
It turns out that rabbits are not the only animals being used to keep Swedes warm. Reindeer, pigs, moose, cows, and horses are also sent to the same incinerator that the bunnies are sent to. The incinerator is run by a firm southeast of Stockholm called Konvex. The director of Konvex, Leo Virta, says that actually, the rabbits only make up a small portion of the total biofuel being produced, the majority coming from cows, pigs, and moose. They basically ground up the raw animal material and put them into a boiler to burn along with wood chips, peat, or other animal wastes to generate heat. Virta says that the system is efficient because it kills two birds with one stone: it provides heat and solves the animal waste problem. In fact, “[o]ne hundred thousand tons of raw materials can generate enough heat for 11,000 homes a year.”  Waste not, right?
Killing animals for biofuel is actually not very common in Europe, but thanks to the European Union law restricting the disposal of raw meat and carcasses, using animal by-products for fuel is becoming an ordinary practice. In Britain, for example, expired and unsold meats in supermarkets are being shipped to companies and transformed into biofuel to heat buildings and homes. Saria, a German biofuel company, uses animal fats and cooking oil from restaurants and converts them into fuel for power stations and manufacturing plants. The company found that “using animal oil instead of vegetable oil is not only a cheaper alternative, but it also produces less harmful emissions, delivers better engine efficiency and reduces noise pollution.” 
It turns out that America also has a similar law that restricts the dumping of raw meat into landfills. The U.S., too, has since been jumping onto the animal-based biofuel bandwagon. In 2007, ConocoPhillips (a major energy company) and Tyson (a major meat processor company) combined forces to use pork and chicken fats as biofuel for the “on-road” market.  Does this mean that America might also start directly using animals for fuel in the future?
I personally feel that the solution Sweden has come up with seems logical given their situation. Yes, it is very sad that bunnies are being killed, but as mentioned by Tuvuynger, overpopulation of the critters is also not a good thing. Although, I do not agree that killing them is the only option. Tuvuynger has also said that “[p]eople like the rabbits because they are pretty. What else can we do with them though? We can’t give them bunny birth control pills. So we have to put the rabbits away.”  Bunny birth control pills definitely sounds laughable, but is making the rabbits sterile actually such a bad idea? Instead of killing the rabbits, perhaps we could capture them and make them sterile before releasing them again. It does not seem so far-fetched to me since researchers capture animals and tag them all the time before releasing them again. Instead of tagging, we could make the animals sterile. However, this might be more trouble than it is worth because people would have to be hired to capture the rabbits. More people and materials would also have to be hired to perform the procedure making the rabbits sterile. Still, this I feel is a valid option to consider.
I also think that spraying the parks with chemicals to avert the rabbits (as suggested by Johanneson) is a very naïve approach. If the parks are sprayed, then the bunnies would simply just move to another suitable area and continue being pests. Also, it would be hard to ensure that these chemicals would only affect the rabbits. The chemicals might also avert other animals in the area, causing them to also move to another area and create an imbalance in another environment. But let’s just say that all areas are sprayed with this chemical (which I think is highly improbable) and that the chemical only affects rabbits. Then the rabbits would have to fight over a very limited if any food source and might starve to death. There would be dead bunnies everywhere! Why waste the materials and let them rot? You might say that other animals could eat the bodies instead, but as it was mentioned before, rabbits were not native to Sweden. The animals in the area could probably survive without the bunnies just fine.
I find it interesting that people are making such a big fuss over using rabbits as fuel but are not really complaining about using cows or pigs. I feel that it is because we use pigs and cows as a food source but not bunnies, so people are not used to the idea of slaughtering such cute furry animals. I also cringe at the idea of killing bunnies and using them for fuel, but I can understand why Stockholm made the decisions that it did. Besides, as I said before, waste not, right?
- Landes, D. (2009, October 12). Stockholm’s bunnies burned to keep Swedes warm.
Retrieved March 3, 2013, from The Local: Sweden’s News in English website:
- Kelly, T. (2009, November 28). Energizer Bunnies: Turning Rabbits into Green
Fuel. Retrieved March 3, 2013, from Time: Business and Money website:
- Bunnies for Biofuel: How Sweden Heats its Homes. (2009, October 14). Retrieved
March 3, 2013, from ABC News website: http://abcnews.go.com/International/