there are several recurring themes in all of these messages, and some nearly identical language, which leads me to believe that these letters have been solicited by the leaders of some sort of rabbit-defense society. i'll attempt to address each of the main points below:
1. first of all, the entire reason why we teach these classes is to plant the seeds for a more sustainable food system. we are educating and empowering people to return to age-old methods of feeding themselves and their families, with the ultimate goals of:
- preserving our environmental resources,
- helping people create healthier eating patterns,
- and, by encouraging a shift toward the consumption of home-raised, -slaughtered, -butchered, and -cooked meat, reducing the demand for and consumption of factory-farmed meat.
2. much of the mail suggests that these classes are unnecessary because there is plenty of meat available for people to buy at the local supermarket. why would we encourage anyone to harm or kill defenseless rabbits when you can just go to safeway and buy some meat that's already dead?
what makes these rabbits any more defenseless than the chickens, pigs, beef cattle, turkeys and other animals raised in CAFOs that end up as anonymous meat in practically every grocery store in this country and around the world?
as a conscientious eater, cook, writer and teacher, i make it a point to know the provenance of every piece of meat i eat or cook. i have taken the time to research how the meat animals at every single farm whose meat i will eat are raised. in many cases, i have visited these farms in person, and am on a first-name basis with the person (or people) who raises the animals. when novella invites me over for dinner, i have very likely petted, fed, slaughtered, plucked, dressed, or chased (!), the animal whose meat we eat--that's a pretty short food chain, made even shorter when the animal in question is rabbit, which is considered the most environmentally sustainable meat choice.
in my cooking, writing, and teaching, i emphasize the importance of knowing where the food we eat comes from, and understanding exactly what it takes to get that food to the table. by demonstrating how to raise, kill, butcher and cook meat animals ourselves, novella and i are giving people an affordable, sustainable alternative to supporting the institutionalized animal cruelty practiced in CAFOs on a daily basis.
3. on the subject of cruelty and violence perpetrated against the rabbits, many of the letters have accused me of both. to the contrary, novella and i have gone to great lengths to teach the act of slaughter in these classes using foolproof, humane methods involving as little violence as possible. we stress that the act of killing should never be done in vain, and do our best to ensure that our students understand and respect the gravity of death. we want the students to understand that for every meal involving meat, one or more animals had to die.
by creating a connection for our students between the act of death and the meat we eat, we hope to increase in each of their minds the value and preciousness of all meats, leading them to carefully consider which and how much meat they choose to eat.
as far as cruelty during their lives, in all but one class we've taught, the animals were raised on novella's farm or another local backyard farm, where they were fed vegetarian diets consisting mostly of fresh vegetables, given plenty of space to roam (certainly more than most caged pet rabbits), and treated with love and respect throughout their lives. in new york, we went to great lengths to find rabbits raised by a farmer known for humane husbandry practices and top-quality meat.
4. many of the letters seem to be written by people who own rabbits as pets and are disgusted at the thought of anyone eating an animal they consider part of the family.
to this, i ask: do you eat beef? in india, cattle are considered sacred. do you eat chicken? across the world, chickens are kept as pets. what about fish? practically every child in america has a pet goldfish at some point or another. unless you are a vegetarian (and even then, you must carefully consider where your dairy products are coming from) or a vegan, consider that the same atrocities you're accusing us of committing are being committed in your name to animals of other species and breeds every single day. even a vegan diet, on one level or another, affects the welfare or quality of life of some living thing.
under what conditions are these pet rabbits bred, raised, and sold? how are they treated once adopted?
furthermore, rabbit meat has been a common food for humans on every single continent (except antarctica) since ancient roman times. contrary to what is being argued, promoting the human consumption of rabbit is not a novel idea (sorry, but novella and i aren't that creative). however, promoting the consumption of backyard rabbits as an alternative to factory-farmed meat that travels across the country, or even world, is somewhat new (though we won't even take credit for that).
p.s. as an empath to the core, i know more than anyone what it's like to be impassioned about a cause, and i appreciate the feeling with which these letters were written (it's also why i'm not actually that upset about any of these personal attacks). but i also try not to forget that there are millions of people (particularly in countries such as haiti and chile, both struck recently by terrible natural disasters) affected by tragedy and who need the help of their fellow humans. as novella said, sitting here debating rabbits demonstrates the relative life of luxury we lead as americans.