Radio24syv, a Danish radio station, is under fire after one of its hosts bludgeoned a baby rabbit to death live on the air. Radio24syv

Thousands of animal lovers are calling on a Danish radio station to fire the DJ who bludgeoned a baby rabbit to death on the air. Asger Juhl, who hosts a program on Radio24syv, killed the 9-week-old bunny in the studio on Monday, beating it three times with a bicycle pump and then twisting its neck in an attempt, he said, to spark a conversation about animal welfare. The 34-year-old Juhl later skinned the animal and ate it, according to reports. The rabbit’s name was Allan.

Following a flood of complaints and a flurry of social media backlash, the station defended the act, saying it was meant to draw attention to the mistreatment of animals at Denmark’s industrial meat and poultry facilities. The station insisted that the stunt was not “empty provocation” because the hosts consumed the animal after killing it. “We wanted to expose the vast hypocrisy surrounding our relationship with animals,” the station said in a statement. “So far we have succeeded.”

Allan the rabbit is seen before being killed in a screen capture taken by the radio station. Radio24syv

Critics said the point could have been made without resorting to on-air animal sacrifice. “No type of journalism needs this kind of brutality,” one person wrote on the station’s Facebook page.

David Lewis, who runs a British rabbit awareness website called “Make Me Hoppy,” launched an online petition Monday calling on the radio station to fire Juhl. The petition attracted more than 3,500 signatures in its first 11 hours. “While we are all for having discussions on animal welfare -- a subject we feel very strongly about -- I think we can all agree there are much better ways to do this than by killing a poor defenseless 9 week old baby rabbit,” the petition states.

So far the station is sticking by its pump-wielding man. In an interview with Sky News Tuesday, Jorgen Ramskov, chief executive of Radio24syv, further defended Juhl in the face of increasing criticism. He said killing the rabbit was meant to call attention to a “very industrialized” agricultural industry in which animals are viewed not as animals but as meat machines. He said Juhl sought advice from experts on how to properly put down a rabbit and that the act was committed as humanely as possible.

Criticism of the station and Juhl continued to build Tuesday on Twitter, with angry tweets being fired off at about 30 per minute by late afternoon:

Read the station’s full statement here.

Christopher Zara is a senior writer who covers media and culture. News tips? Email me here. Follow me on Twitter @christopherzara.