diet dissenter

Being a Diet Dissenter- Meat Rabbit Edition

I don’t know whether I’m naïve or too good at surrounding myself with people who think like me, but strongly negative responses to my back-to-nature lifestyle have caught me completely by surprise. One topic that has recently raised particular contempt has been Ian and my decision to raise meat rabbits.

When we first got our rabbits a few weeks ago I giddily wrote a quick Facebook post and shared it in a few homesteading/simple living groups. The response back to me was very tepid. This was right around the time Facebook introduced the “emotional spectrum of likes”, and suffice it to say my status got a lot of the faces filled with tears and boiling rage.

I even got caught in an angry twitter conversation after posting the seemingly innocent tweet “the Knob house now has meat rabbits!” A realtor in Florida took great offense and made her judgement of me known.

“Shame on you for killing these beautiful soft souls…robbing animals who trust n love you of years of life so u can have a meal or two is twisted thinking n horribly wrong! Wake up… One day u will b dismayed by what u did.”

Yikes.

Funny thing is, I posted a nearly identical posts a few months ago when we first got chickens. I even made it clear that they were livestock, not pets, and that I fully intend to eat most of them someday. But I didn’t get a single negative response. Strange, because if I had to rank the two species based on criteria like general likability, enjoyment provided to the owner, and depth of individuality, chickens would beat rabbits in every category. My laying ladies have far more personality than the skittish bunnies that burrow themselves deep in their boxes when I come too close. I feed them both a very similar amount and type of food, and they even live in the same space (the chicken coop). Why people have had such different responses to my bunnies than my birds is beyond me. I’d chalk it up to the “mammal effect”, except I have a strong feeling a lot of my critics wouldn’t think twice about digging into a juicy steak or a side of bacon.

The ultimate irony is how guilty of rabbit slaughter the typical vegetarian diet actually is. Though it’s almost impossible to collect exact data, many scientists estimate that millions of rabbits and other small rodents are killed every year by the plows that rip through the soybean, corn and wheat fields non-meat eaters are so dependent on. And a lot of these deaths are of babies and mothers in their underground nests.

Given this reality, is it so terrible to provide a few rabbits with a pleasant, food-rich life for several months before respectfully butchering them? Sounds more humane than death by plow to me.

I believe that locally sourced, sustainably raised meat can constitute one part of a healthy, ecologically conscious diet. For me, this means taking steps to raise some of this meat myself. I can control exactly what my rabbits eat, and so gain more control over what goes into my body. I can put their excrement into the garden, use it to grow more robust vegetables, and feed any excess produce right back to them. Raising and butchering my own meat is one essential link in my system of achieving greater sustainability, and no naysayer is going to temper my enthusiasm.

But maybe I won’t invite them over for dinner.

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The two females, living in the chicken coop. Before we breed them we will set up a second cage so that each mama can have her own space with her litter.
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Ian with the buck
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The male, in a custom cage built from wood and wire scraps gathered from around the property.

 

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30 thoughts on “Being a Diet Dissenter- Meat Rabbit Edition

  1. People get weird about animals that can be kept as pets. I’ll never fully understand it. I greatly respect you for your willingness to raise and slaughter your own food. It makes you a much more responsible consumer of the food. Many of the people complaining to you don’t fully realize that the meat they eat was once alive; most would be unwilling to slaughter animals themselves. In our society we are strangely removed from the process of the production of our food. You bring a refreshing light of practicality. Thank you.

  2. Good for you!Live your life as you see fit and let the naysayers eat factory farm produced food!

  3. Thank you for writing this post! We are currently building our rabbit hutches (also in our chicken/Guinea run) and we should get our rabbits next month! We have had a lot of disgusted responses, but we are letting those comments roll. 😉 This lifestyle is hard for many to understand, but we are truly enjoying fewer trips to the grocery store for packaged meat!

    1. So glad you enjoyed my post and are starting on your own venture with rabbits! Be sure to blog about it. 🙂

  4. I agree w/ Jodie about people getting weird about certain animals and also about many of the people eating store bought animals that were kept in worse conditions and then slaughtered (possibly less humanely) for food. These people think it is different since they get it at the grocery store but … that is just rationalization. Good for you that you have committed to keeping your rabbits and chickens happy and healthy while they are with you and then doing what many people, me included I think, could not do … actually harvest them. This is part of our heritage and history that many have gotten away from. As Curt said, live your life as you see fit and … enjoy the adventure!

  5. I actually read an article about this in college. The author called it specism. His take was that we should all be vegan, but as you said, millions of animals are killed to make tofu and soy milk. I think its because bunnies are cute, while most people have only smelled big chicken farms and they conclude they are gross. I totally agree with you though, chickens have a lot more personality. Good luck with your rabbits!

    1. Thanks for the well wishes! That article you mention sounds very interesting. I’ll keep my eyes out for it.

  6. Just chalk it up to farm people having a different perspective than city people. I read an article once that basically summed up to say that we shouldn’t raise and slaughter our own animals because we shouldn’t have to see the process. HUH? I don’t do meat rabbits–my husband and I are too squishy-hearted toward bunnies–but the way we think about it is that we give them a nice life, good healthy food, the best care we can give, safety and love, then they have one bad day. Just one. Better than factory farming/animal rearing ANY day.

    1. Agreed. Shielding ourselves from the reality of the food we eat seems like a terrible idea for me.

  7. Well said, homesteading gal! Our friends living in Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos who raise rabbits for food and teach whole villages how to do the same would applaud you.

    1. Though I never ate rabbit when I was living in Thailand, I ate just about everything else including snake, grasshoppers, worms, and ant eggs. Rabbits seem altogether normal compared to that sort of diet!

      But honestly, everything I tried in Thailand was delicious. Well….expect for the ant eggs. Those were pretty gross. 🙂

  8. Very well written…in the past I’ve raised and butchered my own chickens and like you think chickens are the coolest most personality rich of the barnyard animals. I think our butcher shop here in Asheville says it best with a large sign in their shop: All our animals are grass fed; open pastured…they live great lives, with only one bad day.

  9. Oh man that pisses me off. I eat a plant-based diet, but I would MUCH rather have someone eat an animal they raised themselves than a factory farm animal. Americans are such hypocrites. We express rage over China eating dogs but have no problems with cows, chickens and pigs being confined and tortured on factory farms. Ug. Great post. You brought to light the fact that Americans need to shift their mindset.

  10. Good stuff here, we have been eating our suburban raised stock for a few years. At least you know what has been fed to the stock before you put it in your tummy. Hats off to Ian and his bunny tractor.Take care and of each other.

  11. Great info. I am new at this (raising rabbits) and I have a question. If your going to eat them does it matter if you get new bucks every couple of years. Would appreciate some response from one who knows. I have read a lot but no one has addressed this issue.

    1. The problem comes when you replace your mama rabbits with daughters of your current stock. If you breed them to their daddy bunny you risk lower fertility rates and an increase in the bad traits that they are carriers for. In saying that though, I have ready that bunny genetics are quite strong and daddy and daughter combos are unlikely to cause a problem, but for the next generation after that a new buck would be a good idea. There is a breeding technique called “line breeding” which is fancy terms for selective in-breeding to increase a desired trait, but you don’t want to do it over and over or you will get a weak, sickly and infertile line. Hope that helps!

  12. Have appreciated all of the supportive comments. But why are SO many other people SO far removed from where their food comes from, whether plant or animal? If we had all grown up with an Easter Cow would folks think burgers were disgusting? They have no problem eating Easter eggs, or gnawing the ears off a chocolate bunny. If I didn’t live in an apartment I would like to keep chickens, rabbits, and bees. I applaud homesteaders and urban farmers. Our obese population needs a “food movement”. Rabbit is a lean meat.

  13. After reading your article, I am considering trying to raise rabbits myself; I just don’t know how my “animal loving husband” will take to it. Not to make it sound like I don’t love animals myself because I do! But my husband gets a little over the top with it sometimes. We are older (60’s) and I’m not sure I’d want to do pigs, a cow or chickens at first so rabbits seem easier to start with. I think I might (?) be able to do rabbits myself. I don’t think my husband would be able to harvest them. We will see. Thanks for being brave enough to post this! Wishing you great luck!

  14. I love that you pointed out about you preferring your chickens over your rabbits! I feel the exact same way!! I love my girls and could never imagine killing and processing them! They have way too much personality (good thing I find chicken meat to be kind of boring)! Rabbits? I can do that!

    It’s sad that our society has become so detached from the origins of their food. They have an issue when they find out that their neighbor/peer/friend humanely (and lovingly) raises and processes their own meat, yet have no problem going to the supermarket to buy meat from an animal that was raised on a terrible, corporate commercial farm and lived the worst life imaginable.
    And don’t even get me started on the vegans that shame you (claiming that all farmers are uneducated) for raising and eating meat because it’s “animal cruelty” but have become so ignorant to the realities of commercial vegetable farms (even the “organic” ones).. I could go on and on..

  15. I think you are correct in thinking this is the “mammal effect”, and the primary reason they’re on your case about the rabbits, but would still eat a steak or dig in to some pork is they didn’t see you raise a calf or a piglet! Sorry people are so judgey!

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