Recently a number of our members have sent us copies of newspaper articles that have appeared with alarming frequency about the rising popularity of rabbit meat.
House Rabbit Society members have good reason to be alarmed. Because we all live and share our lives with rabbits, we know what incredible creatures they are: intelligent, curious, willful, funny, affectionate, greedy and even destructive. We love how they communicate with us and with other species; we love how they problem solve, we love how they play, and we love how they stretch their legs out behind them on a sleepy summer day. Some of us even love how they grunt, box, and even bite when grouchy. Millions of our cherished rabbits are being raised in factory-like conditions, with very little government oversight, for slaughter every year.
But the issue of rabbit meat is more complicated for many HRS members and volunteers, since some of us view the consumption of animals of any kind to be ethically problematic. Why should we draw the line between rabbits and, say, pigs, who are highly intelligent, playful, and loving animals (and who even share the rabbit’s willful and even ornery personality)? Here’s why I think that rabbit lovers-meat eaters and vegetarians alike-should take a stand against rabbit meat. I don’t think we should condemn rabbit meat because rabbits are our pets. After all, it’s only semantics and cultural norms that make a dog or a cat “pet” and a pig or a cow “meat.” (A rabbit, technically, is classified by the USDA as a”multi- purpose animal.)
But it’s precisely because rabbits are our companions that so many of us realize not only how special they are, but how arbitrary the distinction is between who we eat and who we cherish. The fact that the same animal who sleeps under our beds, chewing on a wicker toy, is also slaughtered because they “taste like chicken,” as one recent article put it, demonstrates the random nature of the pet/meat distinction. Just because an animal may taste good, does that mean we should eat it?
Rabbit lovers have cause for concern about this trend, but so do animal lovers of all stripes. As long as we tolerate the wholesale transformation of animals (such as kangaroos, ostriches and bears) into meat, no animal, no matter how beloved, will be safe. Even meat eaters recognize that the line has to be drawn somewhere.
by Margo De Mello
House Rabbit Journal Fall 2005/Winter 2006: Volume IV, Number 12