Some people are shocked when Tasmanian couple Rees and Col Campbell tell them they’re farming guinea pigs for meat.
But animal rights activists say it’s hypocritical to condemn eating guinea pig meat when you eat the flesh of other animals.
The Campbells reportedly keep between 10 and 25 guinea pigs on their one-acre block of land in the northwestern Tasmanian town of Wynyard.
The cute and fluffy rodents – which are usually kept as pets in Australia – free range in their garden and their offspring are either eaten or sold.
“Some of the baby guinea pigs we sell as pets, and others we grow on and eat them, once they’re about half-grown,” Ms Campbell told ABC News.
The practice has divided opinions amongst the couple’s friends and acquaintances.
“One of course is, ‘Oh, how could you do that? They’re cute!’ And the other is, ‘Wow, how interesting. What do they taste like?’,” Ms Campbell told the broadcaster.
“Everybody that we’ve fed it to has been pleasantly surprised. Everybody has enjoyed it.”
Guinea pigs originated in the Andes of South America and are thought to have been domesticated as livestock for a source of meat.
They continue to be a major part of the diet in highland areas in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia, where they are commonly bought and sold at local markets.
Guinea pig meat – or “cuy” – is high in protein, low in fat and cholesterol, and is similar to rabbit and the dark meat of chicken.
It’s often served fried, roasted or barbecued, or in a soup or casserole.
The mammals also reproduce and grow quickly and are easy to feed.
Since their guinea pigs live happy lives, the Campbells argue eating them is more socially and ethically responsible than consuming other types of animal flesh.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says people are right to feel uncomfortable about killing, cooking, and eating “clever, curious guinea pigs”.
“We don’t agree with anyone who breeds, confines, or slaughters animals” spokeswoman Emily Rice said.
“It’s genuinely disgusting, after all.”
But, PETA does agree that it’s hypocritical to condemn human consumption of guinea pig meat when one eats the flesh of other animals, such as lamb or veal.
“The idea that some species deserve more moral consideration than others is called speciesism,” Ms Rice said.
This has no more logical basis than other discriminatory beliefs like racism or sexism.
“Like it or not, those neatly packaged products you buy at the butcher come from sheep, chickens, pigs, cows, and other animals killed by the millions each year in Australia,” she said.