Warning. Some of you might be disturbed by this post.

Rabbits. Bunnies. Hippity hop oh so adorable pet, right?

Well, maybe. Or, maybe they’re a little more than that.

My great-grandfather used to have a little farm that raised rabbits. Pretty, fluffy show rabbits who were pampered pets, and then a lot of more ordinary rabbits who… umm… well, who fed a good many people in the town. Those years during and after the wars, people were pretty darned happy to have meat, wherever they could find it, and rabbits were one of the most accessible.

Those of you who know me are probably wondering where the heck this is going, especially since you know I’m mostly a vegetarian. Well, y’all also know my husband is NOT, and as I’m mostly responsible for the cooking and grocery shopping, that means I still have to think hard about the issues surrounding the meat I prepare for him.

As much as I would love for all of our meat to come from a happy farm local CSA, that’s not always a possibility with our budget. Sometimes I just have to hold my nose and buy those frozen Trader Joe’s chicken breasts and try not to think about it too hard.

However, In thinking about the chicken coop I intend to build later this year for fresh eggs, I started thinking about my great-grandfather and his rabbits. I’ve had conversations with a few people about raising bunnies, mostly to sound out the ideas rattling about in my head. The sticking point is always “could you kill it”? and the truth is, I’m not so sure.

On the one hand, no. Because if it came down to having meat or killing a bunny, I’d go eat a salad. That said, I also really don’t agree with how all of the meat in stores is shrink wrapped and sterilized into portions that are completely unrelated to and unrecognizable as the animal they came from. Since that’s exactly what I’m buying to feed my husband, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a little hypocritical.

Which is why this article from IsGood really caught my attention.

According to the article, “rabbit is one of the healthiest, leanest, and most environmentally friendly meats you can eat.” Rabbits are small, eat kitchen scraps, and their poop makes awesome compost (just ask my tomatoes). They also convert food energy to pounds incredibly efficiently, and are a lot easier for the DIY homesteader to butcher and dress.

All these reasons and more are why Michael Pollan is calling Rabbits the new urban chickens.

So at the end of the day, I’m not quite ready to whack Thumper over the head – yet, but the article is a really interesting read anyway. Check it out and tell me what you think?

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27 thoughts on “Warning. Some of you might be disturbed by this post.

  1. I don’t know if you knew this, but I grew up on a small farm in Pennsylvania and we raised animals, as well as did small game hunting (and our neighbors would go deer hunting and would do trades with my folks for chicken/duck/geese). We had rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, a pet goat, ponies, horses, dogs, cats. Some of the rabbits, chickens, ducks and geese had names. They were pets. Some of them didn’t have names. They were dinner. You still treated them with respect and kindness, but had to remain somewhat detached from it. Having animals for a food source isn’t easy – most especially when it’s time for butchering. It’s not something I think I would want to do again, but I was appreciative and ever-most thankful for the nutrition they supplied to me and my family.

    • I’ve known a few folks who segregated their animals like this. The kids each had a chicken that was the pet. And then there were the other ones. The main pet rooster got carried around, served tea, the usual kid stuff, the others got to scratch in the dirt.

      Hmm, kinda sounds like animal farm.

      Still, the familiarity thing has been the one big hurdle that’s stopped me from raising a food critter or score.

  2. The article is really interesting, but they were pretty abruptly on and off the mechanics of breaking the rabbit’s neck, which is pretty hard for me to imagine.

    But I also have a feeling that it’s a bit hypocritical to subsidize slaughtering if I feel like I couldn’t do it. Nature’s Harmony Farm near here offers classes in slaughtering chickens, turkeys, and pigs — how to bleed them and everything — I wonder if they might add rabbits any time soon.

    • That’s kind of how I feel. I raised rats to feed Wayne’s snake, but I made him do the actual feeding of said snake. I felt better knowing at least they had a very pampered life, right up until that last moment. I guess it’s all part of the journey of getting past the disconnect most of us have with where our food comes from.

    • There’s nothing wrong with having a heaping plateful of empathy for people and other animals. Sometimes it clouds our judgement. Where it comes to food, we have the luxury of not having to deal with the butchering of our own food. This has pluses and minuses. There’s also a hygene issue here.

      Kids on a farm tend to get to see some things FAR more closely than what the rest of us suburban and urban folks do. Even just general issues like a uterine prolapse is something we don’t have to deal with. Farmers just wade in, roll up their sleeves and deal with it.

      If more people started raising their own meat, I suppose they could always pay a local butcher to handle this sort of stuff and handle the extra processing. This is how cattle works for sale and for farmers who don’t really have the facilities to handle what is a really big and messy job.

      But from the standpoint of breaking necks, chickens are the same way. It’s apparently like wringing a washcloth. It’s easy to talk about it in a clinical manner, but even I have some pause when I think of having to do this. This is why I have yet to take up hunting.

      • We actually have a neighborhood butcher, less than a mile away. I could definitely take my animals there to get around hygiene issues, but I still feel like I need to be ABLE to do it before I embarked upon such a venture.

  3. My husband and our kids are all vegetarian, but I’m not. Like you, we don’t like factory farming. So when we moved to the country, we decided to raise meat chickens and then process them at home. I didn’t think he’d be able to kill them, but he became better at it than I am, so it just seemed more humane for him to do it. I did the rest, though.

    I know rabbits are good meat animals, but I don’t really like how they taste. And I’m not sure my kids would forgive me. At least the chickens weren’t snuggly.

  4. In Peru, people keep guinea pigs (‘cuy’) for the same purpose. Apparently they also eat scraps and pretty much anything edible that gets dropped on the floor, making them something like little furry Roombas that you can eat.

  5. I read this article yesterday and am thinking hard on it. I love all animals, but I agree that we have a huge disconnect with our food and its source: and I eat meat. I’m about to give up red meat again, but there’s no way I’m going to get Mr.Mister to give it up. Especially not when he’s training for a half Ironman.

    Anyway. As a matter of practicing what I preach, I may very well end up with rabbits in the back yard. My biggest problem will be resisting the urge to name them. That and the slaughter, but I’m going to have to get over that.

    We are in a mild Depression right now, and I think it’s going to get worse. I very much think we all need to be exploring these kinds of options. But that’s another platform…

      • yup! we have been hunkering down for awhile, though not doing a great job of it. i lament the amount of shade we have, but at least i’m working around that.

        btw, have a farmer friend i’ll be plugged back into when he’s got veggies again. there had been talk of raising chickens for meat; if he was able to pull that off, i’ll be happy to connect you. he was going to do the slaughtering/cleaning, and i know him to know it would be as humane as possible.

        i think the next few years are going to be very, very interesting in this world.

      • You know it’s funny… I’m far more squeamish about butchering a chicken, mostly because of the feathers.

        The other thing about the rabbits is that I would have to find some use for all the bits. The fur, the bones… I feel like if you’re going to kill an animal, you owe it to it to appreciate every single bit of it. The odd bits of flesh would solve my cat food dillemma, that’s for sure.

      • LOL, my bones go to the dogs.{No pun intended} Fur and anything else I will not be cooking,go in a hole, covered up and comes back next year as a cucumber 🙂

    • This article is great. The end is a bit dramatic:

      “When I was the first person to volunteer to break the neck, it all seemed so easy and emotionless that I didn’t realize until after I’d done it that I was shaking,” she said.

      But she recovered quickly. After all, there was a rabbit to dress.

      Ms. Lippert still has the pelt, the head and the feet. They’re in her freezer, awaiting the taxidermist. But she doesn’t have the boyfriend.

      “He ended up leaving me for a vegetarian,” she said.

  6. I remember the first time I ate rabbit meat – I was surprised at how tender it was and flavorful too. I too was going to suggest talking to your local butcher about doing it for you – you might even be able to work out a trade if he sells it as well. Plus he would have the facilities/knowledge to do it correctly. As for the leftover fur.. I bet you find some way to use it – rabbit fur trim on one of your skirts perhaps? And the bones – little talismans to ward off evil?

  7. I said to my mum not long ago ‘I’ve never tried rabbit before…’ and she said ‘well, you had it all the time when you were a kid!’ Apparently my family ate alot of wild rabbit (growing up in Australia, there was no shortage!) and us kids were told it was chicken so it wouldn’t upset us. Growing up in the country we ate alot of wild harvest, both because we were poor and it aligned with Dad’s ethics to provide for one’s self.

    Again living in Australia, I’m lucky to have access to good quality organic and free range meat. Most cattle here is free range and grass fed, and there is an organic/free range piggery and chicken farm to purchase from in my local area, in addition to a salmon and trout farm.

    I don’t believe in the maxim that you should be able to kill it to eat it though, I don’t think anyone should ever have to be made to feel bad for not having the balls to kill an animal. I think that unless I suddenly find myself being The Last Human, I’ll always pass the killing part to someone else.

    • Oh I wouldn’t hold anyone else to that last part. (and truth be told, the local butcher would do 99% of it.) It’s just me personally, I feel like I should be able to if I’m going to raise them.

  8. I love you rabbit habitat. I will be moving soon and will consider such an interesting structure.

    Rabbits as you point out are easy and fun to have. I have my breeders that I have become very attached to. However with that said I have no problem placing a nice fryer in the pan for a delicious dinner 🙂

    Enjoyed you blog post

  9. I love your blog! At least the rabbits you keep for breeders can be pets right? That way everyones happy. I have a breeding pair of New Zealand Whites I plan to breed and sell off some of the litter as pets and eat the rest. I’ve just killed my first chicken this weekend and it wasn’t too bad. Bunnies though? THats going to be a test. Check out my blog where I talk about all this!

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