COPENHAGEN (AFP) - A Danish radio station killed a baby rabbit with a bicycle pump live on air, prompting a storm of criticism Tuesday despite claims it had simply wanted to highlight cruelty in farming.
"We didn't do it for the sake of entertainment," talk radio station Radio24syv wrote on Twitter.
"Thousands of animals die each day so that people can eat them," it added.
The broadcaster said radio host Asger Juhl on Monday killed baby rabbit Allan with repeated blows to the head to highlight "hypocrisy" in Danes' attitudes towards animal welfare.
"We buy and eat animals that have had an awful life. And animals that have been killed under the same controlled conditions as the rabbit in the studio," it wrote in a statement.
Reality TV show star and animal rights activist Linse Kessler tried to grab the animal and chased Juhl around the studio several times before being asked to leave.
"They wanted to see if they could kill him in the end or if they had gotten too attached to him," she said in a video clip on her Facebook page.
Kessler said she thought she was capable of wresting the animal from Juhl but feared it would die a more painful death if she grabbed it.
"I hit it hard over the neck twice so that the cervical vertebrae fractured," Juhl told broadcaster TV 2.
"I was instructed by a zookeeper from Aalborg Zoo who hits several baby rabbits every week (to feed) the snakes," he added.
Juhl said he had brought the dead rabbit to his home - where he skinned and cut it up with his children, aged six and eight - and that he later would have rabbit stew for dinner with fellow morning host Kristoffer Eriksen.
A Copenhagen zoo prompted international outrage last year by putting down a healthy giraffe, known as Marius, and then dissecting it in front of children.
That incident, just like the radio station's stunt, drew a mixed response in Denmark where agriculture is a key export industry.
"To provoke and to promote itself," Twitter user Steffen Andersen in Aarhus wrote, while journalist Brian Esbensen tweeted: "What if people were just as outraged over drowned refugees."
Radio24syv said it wanted to put more focus on "one of the world's most industrialised agriculture sectors".
Danish farming "allows 25,000 piglets to die every day because farming has been streamlined and (breeds) pigs that give birth to far more offspring than the mother pig can handle", it said.
International reactions on social media were overwhelmingly negative, with users calling the radio host "sick" and "sadistic", even after the station issued a statement in English.
"Denmark is one of the top countries in the world when it comes to consumption of meat products and consumers do not hesitate to buy cheap meat in stores without asking questions," it said.