Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail --straight to Pyongyang and eventually, North Korean ovens. A German breeder is exporting oversized rabbits to the People's Republic to help fill empty stomachs.
Karl Szmolinsky and one of his big bunnies -- that's a lot of rabbit stew
Karl Szmolinsky is taking his first trip abroad this April. But he's not going to a Mediterranean island, or Greece or Italy, or any of the other sunny spots most Germans choose for their vacations. He's headed to one of the most hermitically sealed countries on earth, ruled with an iron fist by an unpredictable dictator, and he's taking his bunnies along.
The 67-year-old is exporting his "German grey giants," which he's bred since 1964, to North Korea, which suffers from chronic food shortages and where, although hard information is nearly impossible to get, malnutrition and even starvation are believed to be common.
"I just want to help the Koreans," said Szmolinsky, who lives in the eastern German town of Eberswalde. He isn't going to get rich off the business deal. He'll receive around 80 euros ($104) per rabbit, meaning his profit margin is going to be small.
Ten of his rabbits are already there, and they've been placed in a petting zoo for children to run their hands through their plush coats. When Szmolinsky arrives, he will advise officials on breeding techniques for these biggest rabbits in the world, which can reach a weight of 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and produce seven kilograms (15.4 pounds) of meat.
Szmolinsky first heard that North Korean wanted rabbits in October. Shortly thereafter, an armored Mercedes limousine arrived at his place and asked the breeder to show him a few animals and then weigh them. The North Korean left impressed and the deal was done. Those bunnies were about to be on their way to the workers' paradise.
The breeder's rabbits could soon be common throughout Kim Jong Il's realm. In mid-September, the state news agency KNCA told the population that rabbits are the most "economically advantageous pets" around and that rabbit hutches should be put up pronto since the German giants produce "a lot of meat with just a little feed."
Now that's news they could use.