Toby is a bunny with wheat-colored fur and innocent brown eyes. He's about 10 inches long and the picture of fuzzy-wuzzy cuteness.
Sadly, in a matter of months Toby will be chopped, skinned, sauteed and served in a wine sauce.
The Web site carries a variety of merchandise whose purchase goes toward the $50,000 needed to 'save' Toby.
The anonymous operator of Savetoby.com has vowed to take this beloved pet to a butcher, slaughter the animal and then devour him in a midsummer feast, unless visitors to the site send $50,000 by June 30. You read it right: Send money, or the bunny is dinner.
"I don't want to eat Toby," the site operator writes on the home page, "he is my friend, and he has always been the most loving, adorable pet. However, God as my witness, I will devour this little guy unless I receive 50,000$ USD into my account from donations or purchase of merchandise."
To underscore the gravity of all this, there is a section with recipes for, among other dishes, Lapin Braise (take "1 Toby cut in serving-sized pieces, flour for dusting with salt and pepper"), Moroccan Hare Tagine ("Ingredients: Toby, olive oil, cinnamon") and Toby Confit ("Place Toby's legs together with the sliced garlic and rock salt in a bowl overnight"). In the gallery section, there's a photo of Toby on a cutting board, just to make sure you get the idea.
To date, if the site's claims are to be believed, more than $18,000 has been raised to rescue Toby from the crockpot. But verifying that figure is impossible, and the site could be nothing more than a darkly comic and rather inspired way to make some quick cash. This is not the first send-money-or-Fluffy-gets-it scheme in history. What's certain is that a) Whoever runs this site owns a very cute bunny, b) the site is selling more than 90 Toby-related products and c) thanks to some careful planning, the identity of the bunny's keepers is a well-kept secret.
Oh, and d) some animal-rights people are really really peeved.
"We've received hundreds of death threats," says a guy who calls himself James and who readily admits that James is not his real name. In response to an e-mailed request for an interview, he called Wednesday afternoon and would say only that he and his business partner are in their twenties and live on the East Coast.
Are you really going to, you know, eat the little fella?