Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rabbits: pet and meat, all in one

As most readers of this blog are aware, I have a rather large, happy rabbit. 

I have had rabbits almost continuously throughout my entire life. My understanding of them, and my own rabbitry skills, have evolved throughout that time. I have gone from a child feeding pellets to my aloof outdoor rabbits to feeding an all-fresh diet to a house rabbit that lives cage-less indoors like a cat.

Blissfully unaware of the rabbit-eating debate today

They are sweet, they are funny, and they are loving. My beautiful Zelda would sit and let you pet her all night long if you wanted to. When I was a teenager, Bandit would sit on my lap for hours as I gabbed on the phone. They are such wonderful pets that I will probably have rabbits for the rest of my life.

At one point, I couldn't have imagined eating a rabbit. But as my understanding of rabbitry has evolved, so have my tastes and the available options. I first tasted rabbit in 2012 at Next, followed by Sprout and Big Jones, among others. I probably would not prepare it at home simply because it usually comes whole, and that is usually hard for me to stomach with any animal. But it is a delicious, healthy, and sustainable meat that is eaten by billions of people around the world, and I order it in restaurants when I can.

I was surprised to receive an e-mail recently from the Red Door Shelter in Chicago asking me to boycott Whole Foods over their pilot program to sell rabbit meat. I get that for many people rabbit is a pet, but for many others it is nothing more than a tasty entree. (And for some people, like me, it is both.) And now the rabbit-haters have appeared in an Atlantic article. So I felt I needed to say something, and this blog is as good a place as any.

Does rabbit have to be a pet OR meat? We don't seem to feel that way about fish. Cows and pigs are mammals, but I guess they are not furry enough? Does one count more than another because it is cute and cuddly? Because I can hold my rabbit's paw, nuzzle his face and tell him he's a good boy? Because his ears tilt curiously just this way or that?

I think there are two takeaways that I would like people to understand about this issue. Number one, if you don't want to eat rabbit meat, don't, but don't push your diet choices on other people or assume that YOUR discomfort is the norm. (But you really should try it, especially confit.) 

Number two, we could all use a lot more gray in this world. Why does a thing have to be black or white? Can't we view it with the complexity that it deserves? 

Get educated, and go out there and experience the gray.

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