Friday, April 13, 2012

"Crazy Bunny Lady" Gives Her 2 Cents on Eating Rabbits

A university extension class will teach people “How to raise, kill, and process a rabbit in a humane and efficient manner” at a farm on Saturday morning on April 21st.  How is "dead" for a healthy 6 to 12 week old rabbit really considered "humane." The flyer (link) goes on to say:  “You’ll receive a live rabbit to dispatch and process yourself. You’ll leave the workshop with practical skills, self-confidence and a rabbit and recipe for your Sunday dinner.”  The reality of the lesson deserves more than the euphemism “dispatch.”  The word is “kill” or “slaughter.”  The “process” is “butchering.” Some classes and websites have called butchering rabbits  “harvesting” like picking crops. Rabbits are not plants. They are animals I know by the names of "Pansy,"  "Sweetie," and many more over the years.

Of course, I find the idea of eating rabbits offensive.  Rabbits live as pets in my home. However, those who raise, prepare and cook bunnies have denigrated such opinions as an “Easter Bunny Syndrome,” or a “Bambi Complex.”  Those derisive labels are an easy tactic to brush off a point of view as a psychological problem , i.e., “crazy bunny lady.”  The name calling by those with a contrary opinion tries to minimize any civil discussion. Frankly, why should any animal lover be derided as “wacko” or "a meddlesome nutjob" when we have compassion for these long eared creatures. Many people have rehabilitated suffering abandoned rabbits from abuse or simply love them as part of our family like a cat or dog.  When did respect for the lives of animals become an eccentric personality defect?

There are upwards from 2 to 4 million rabbits kept as pets in this country.  House rabbits are becoming very common in urban areas with rabbits kept in the family home just like a cat or dog. They are the third most popular mammalian pet in the U.S., UK and Canada. Domesticated rabbits can be litter box trained like a cat, learn their names and other words just like any dog or cat, learn tricks like dogs (clicker training), are very affectionate, and bond for life with people, other pets and other rabbits.

Of course, people can eat a bunny. People will eat anything. In some parts of Asia dogs and cats are regularly consumed. However, as pet ownership of these animals is on the rise the resistance to eating them has increased. (This change in attitude has been reported in several news stories this year.) Rabbits are established as pets in the U.S. so why do we objectify them as food and not dogs or cats? If tradition and cultural preferences were reasonable arguments against braising a bunny, then why do the majority of people (pet owners or not) in the U.S. find it shocking people are still poaching puppies and boiling cats in some parts of the world. We know cats and dogs as our companions  I also know cats and dogs and rabbits as companions.  All three species provide companionship to humans. All three species are heroes in news stories saving their owners from perishing in house fires and medical emergencies. All three species are comforting people as therapy animals nationwide.  Yet, one is still considered a trendy "farm to table" dinner entree.

The breeds considered so called "meat rabbits" are the same breeds who make the best pets like the Dutch, New Zealand, Californians, etc. There is no difference between a meat rabbit and a pet rabbit. Does giving a rabbit a cute name change the rabbit. No. It changes the perspective of the humans toward the bunny. It is that simple.  In fact, some nameless rabbits removed from closed backyard meat operations are now living in homes as pets. Recently, Samantha, a Gorilla from a zoo in Erie PA, was awarded certificate recognizing her "great compassion as a responsible rabbit caregiver and friend." Samantha lives in her enclosure with a Dutch bunny, a breed routinely sold as meat and ironically as pets, too.  But, apparently even a 400 lb. gorilla understands rabbits are best suited as friends not food and what does that make us?  As far as I know the gorilla has not named the rabbit.