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Chickendom is as horrified as pigdom with the African swine fever (ASF) infestation in the country. Not only because pigs are dying from the disease and being culled by the thousands to contain the outbreak, but also because pork eaters wary of getting the virus have switched to chicken.

With the heightened appetite for chooks, poultry farms are emptied faster than piggeries these days as its resident broilers are rushed to fast-food commissaries and abattoirs to be “dressed” en masse before their delivery to restaurants and supermarkets. Not even the rise of dressed chicken prices beyond the P130 per kilo pre-ASF level could deter consumers and diners from indulging in chicken.

With the latest ASF outbreak in Mindanao keeping hog consumption at bay, chickens expect no respite from butchers. In fact, the high demand for broilers is causing a meat supply gap that is now threatening the rabbit population.

If bunnies can talk, Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar will surely get an earful from these animals for endorsing rabbit meat.

“Its growth cycle is lesser than other potential substitutes, but will be cheaper. It’s also very high in protein, and it’s like chicken,” Dar said in a TV interview.

The predicament of rabbits can get worse if the H5N1 bird flu that hit poultry farms in China reaches the country. If consumers chicken out on eating chicken for fear of getting bird flu, people may shift to rabbit meat and make hares a menu mainstay. Also, if Instagram gets flooded with photos of yummy adobong kuneho, roast rabbit or bunny sisig, rabbits may shed their pet image.

It would probably be a relief if animal rights advocate Joaquin Phoenix makes a separate appeal to spare bunnies from slaughter. But wabbits cannot really rely on a “Joker.”

Only an outbreak of a flu that afflicts rabbits may turn off humans from eating them.

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