Scotland’s rabbit-killing exercise condemned

Date published: August 7 2016

An account of Scotland's pre-Rugby World Cup camp activities in France has drawn heavy criticism from the animal rights group PETA.

Jim Hamilton, the Saracens lock who retired from international rugby after missing out on selection for Scotland's 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign, revealed details of last June's camp to the Rugby Pod podcast this week.

Recalling how the squad were marched into the Pyrenees as part of an exercise with the French Marines, certain Scottish players were then according to Hamilton tasked with killing a rabbit to "toughen them up."

Hamilton explained: "Vern [Cotter, Scotland head coach] was sitting there in full outdoor hunter gear – big jumper, walking boots and he's got a knife.

"He said: "right lads, we've got four hours, we're cooking this for dinner, who doesn't want to kill the rabbits?"

"Richie Gray puts his hand up, along with Ross Ford, Stuart Hogg and another guy. Vern then old them: "right, you four are killing the rabbits!"

"An army guy at the camp pulled out this bunny rabbit – it's not even a wild rabbit – and says: "this is how you need to kill it."

"He's swinging this rabbit round with one hand, then next thing he slams it on the floor. I'm not joking, the thing's eyes popped out of its head, then he cuts his throat.

"So the boys had to go and kill the other three. Richie is spinning this thing round and he's saying that he can't slam it, and Vern shouts: "f***ing kill it!"

"Richie does it, but it's not dead, it's shaking like mad and there's blood everywhere, and he's slamming it over the head with a stick.

"Needless to say, the rabbits didn't taste that succulent – they were a bit tough. But that's all we had for food, with 35 baguettes."

Elisa Allen, UK director of charity PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said in a statement: "Turning rugby players into killers won't improve their game, and to call it 'unsporting' is an understatement.

"Crushing the skulls of rabbits and slitting their throats are terrifying and agonising ways to kill these sensitive, intelligent animals, and such violent acts may be illegal in France, where this cruelty allegedly occurred.

"PETA is calling on authorities to investigate and also asking the rugby league to take immediate action to put a stop to any further 'training' with animals'."