Sunday, April 08, 2007

Unholy Alliance

"North Korean Commies ate my giant rabbits!" says a German rabbit breeder who sold 12 of his animals to North Korea so the communist country could start its own breeding program fears they have been eaten by officials.

Karl Szmolinsky with one of his giant rabbits, which weighs 23lb

From the Telegraph:
Karl Szmolinsky sent the huge rabbits, which can grow as big as dogs and produce 15lb (7kg) of meat, to North Korea last year so they could be bred and used to ease desperate food shortages.

He thought they were being kept at a zoo in the capital Pyongyang and was planning to travel to the country after Easter to give advice on setting up a breeding facility.

But the 68-year-old says his trip has been cancelled and he suspects it may be because communist officials have eaten the rabbits, which he sold for a cut-price €80 (£54) each rather than the usual €200.

Mr Szmolinsky, who has won prizes for his rabbits during 47 years of breeding them, said: "That’s an assumption, not an assertion. But they’re not getting any more.

"I think the animals aren’t alive any more. I was due to go and inspect the animals and look at the facility.

"They kept delaying the trip. I would have liked to go."

He added that he will no longer export rabbits to the country. "North Korea won’t be getting anything from me any more, they shouldn’t even bother asking."

But the North Korean embassy in Berlin denied anyone had contacted Mr Szmolinsky and insisted his "German grey giant" rabbits were still alive.

"The rabbits aren’t intended to be eaten, they are for breeding purposes," a spokesman said.

Kim Jong Il, North Korea's leader, is said to be a huge film buff, owning a collection of more than 20,000 video tapes. His reported favorites are the slasher film Friday The 13th, Rambo, the James Bond and Godzilla series, any movie with Elizabeth Taylor, and Hong Kong action movies. He is the author of the book On the Art of the Cinema. In 1978, on the orders of Kim, South Korean film director Shin Sang-ok and his actress wife Choe Eun-hui were kidnapped in order to build a North Korean film industry. In 2006 he was involved in the production of the Juche (self-reliance) based movie Diary of a Girl Student – depicting the life of a girl whose parents are scientists – with a KCNA news report stating that Kim "improved its script and guided its production".

More than two million people are thought to have died as a result of a famine in North Korea during the mid-1990s, and its citizens have been encouraged to breed rabbits to be eaten as food shortages continue.

Mr Szmolinsky, meanwhile, is in talks to sell his rabbits to a host of other countries including China and Russia.

I'd like to know how far Szmolinsky's 'ranch' is from a nuclear power plant.

Screwing around with nature:
According to Szmolinsky, eight female rabbits should produce between 60-70 offspring each year. So, in theory, North Korea could have a large enough population of German Grey Giants in less than decade to begin using the rabbits as a food crop. Each rabbit should provide around 7 kg. of meat, enough to feed more than one family.

If it is true that North Korea plans on turning these rabbits into a high-volume food source to help feed its 23 million citizens, it will be interesting to see how Pyongyang actually makes it happen.

Many European countries, China, and Indonesia do produce and consume significant amounts of rabbit meat. But no major population on earth uses rabbit meat as a primary food source.

Malta is the worldwide leader in per capita rabbit consumption. And, at present, North Korea is not even one of the world’s major rabbit meat producers.

The problems that North Korea faces setting up this programme are significant. First, how would Pyongyang establish such a large breeding operation? It is doubtful that the government could create the infrastructure needed to make this a viable industry. In order to produce 2,273,000 kg. of rabbit meat annually, North Korea would have to build facilities to house at least one million rabbits. The number and size of housing could be reduced by turning a large portion of the public into “backyard breeders.”

But, leaving this programme in the hands of an underfed populace and small farms is not a viable option. Especially when you consider the eating habits of these giant hares. Each rabbit eats close to one kg. a day of grains and vegetables that could otherwise be consumed by humans. Szmolinsky himself limits the number of rabbits he keeps on-hand because of the cost of feeding them.

Nationwide, a population of 1,000,000 rabbits would be consuming 910,000 kg of food staples daily. Should this rabbit population grow into the millions, it is conceivable that the rabbits would end up eating more potatoes and rice daily that the North Korean population.

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