Friday, February 27, 2015

Raising Rabbits

Cute little soon-to-be bastards
Raising rabbits for meat is a whole different kettle of fish from raising chickens. Rabbits start out as pink little wiggly fingerlings, and slowly grow into the cutest fluff balls imaginable. While young, they eat and eat and eat, until they are about 5-10 pounds. They never really lose their cuteness, always being fuzzy and generally passive if not affectionate.

There is a brief window, between 120 and 150 days, where they are absolute bastards. This is called puberty. They start to go from being 'safety in numbers, why can't we all get along' to 'You inna my space and I'm gonna kill you!'.

Then, after 150 days, they become all about survival again, and are fine to deal with. Still solitary, a little annoyed at being bothered, but much less annoying.

Coincidentally, if you're raising meat rabbits, you slaughter them between 120 and 150 days.

Rabbit meat is lean, delicious, and generally not eaten in the U.S. Production of rabbit meat has declined in the US by 53% from 1985-2001 (the most recent numbers I could find). Personally, I think it has to do with the cute factor.  There was a study done on the consumption of rabbit meat and it showed that consumers were generally white, male, and with incomes less than $50,000. Most people would be willing to try rabbit meat, if it were in patty or sausage form. Seems like folks need a little distance between the Easter bunny and the plate.

This source of protein really makes you think about where your food comes from. This beautiful little animal, soft, fluffy, friendly, easily controlled is destined to be killed and eaten. This is the one animal on our farm I have personally killed. We generally take our animals to be processed, as we don't have the facilities to deal with the larger livestock and plucking and cooling chickens is a royal pain. Rabbits, though, are easy to process. I won't walk you through it, but if you're interested and have a strong stomach, you can see the whole process here. Be warned: This video takes you through the whole process, from live rabbit to succulent rabbit chops.

It says something about our culture that I have to post the above warning. One hundred years ago (and still in certain areas of the country), it would have been no big thing to have killed a rabbit, and you may have done it yourself. Even when I grew up, I knew how to gut and butcher wild animals that I'd shot with a .22 rifle. We have become so removed from our food that we forget the lowly McDonald's hamburger was once a steer (at least partially).

For me, the killing process is a spiritual event, bordering on a rite. I thank the animal for its presence, and the gift it is about to give, and I pray for its spirit to pass on into another life, hopefully a happier one than the current. Then I take that life. After I process it, I do my best to use all of what has been given me. After all, an animal died to provide for me food, fur, and even bones.

I've not been very good about utilizing the animals that die. We usually just bury those, but there have been some that we can use if we're creative. There are other animals on the farm that love rabbit meat, but I don't necessarily love processing enough to feed it to them.  However, we're learning more about the pet food process, and I'm sure our dogs and cats will eventually be on at least a partially a rabbit diet.

What does this have to to with Gnosticism? Through farming, I've become very aware that my survival is dependent on the suffering of other creatures. The world is built upon a simple transaction: You die so that I may live. This may be startling, but it is true. This world, built buy an insane craftsman blinded by his own ignorance and arrogance, is reflected in my day to day life.

As a gnostic, I realize I cannot change the world I live in significantly. Whether I move to complete vegetarianism or even simply starve to death, the system remains the same. Some creatures must die so that others may live.

And as a gnostic, it is not my goal nor my responsibility to fix the system nor to immanentize the eschaton. My goal and my responsibility is to minimize the issues in the system while looking for a way out, to return to the perfect celestial world of which this material world is a poor reflection. To this end, I try to raise the animals as ethically and humanely as possible, and find the best, fastest, and most humane way of dispatching them. Our goal is to see the animals have only one bad day. It's a lot better than most of their compatriots get, and in return we simply ask for everything.

It's not a good deal for the animal. It's not a good deal for us. It's the best I've found so far.

1 comment:

Soror A.M.Y said...

I like the way you put "minimize the issues in the system". This implies active participation, and not passively putting up with the institutions of that system. Thank you. I enjoy your posts and return often to your blog.