rabbit statement

both novella and i have received many impassioned emails in response to last week's article. my first instinct was to ignore it, but since the number of responses seems to be increasing each day, i feel it's appropriate to post a statement clarifying our intention and methodology.

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.
we also believe that such practices will help reduce the consumption of meat in general, regardless of how it is raised. once a person sees how much work, time and care goes into thoughtfully raising one animal for its meat, how could she ever look at a plastic-wrapped packaged of chicken breasts at the grocery store in the same way again?

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.


  1. Samin, while the thought of eating rabbit mostly doesn't appeal to me, because I don't know what it tastes like, I think once you get past any initial squeamishness, I think the idea of eating rabbit is more, shall I say, palatable. I appreciate your work, and more importantly the visionary quality of your work. The points you write are well taken. Thank you for taking a risk with rabbits for a sustainable future.

  2. It's probably inevitable that as more Americans are confronted with where their food is coming from, and what conditions it is created under, there are going to be those that lash out at the messengers, regardless of how well thought out your thoughts are on the matter. The world is full of people who don't want their blinders removed. Keep up the good work.

  3. I personally would not eat rabbit, but I agree that people should know where their food is coming from.

    My grandmother used to go to a farm, slaughter a chicken herself, and then bring it home. She would also buy a live fish and leave it in the bathtub until she was ready to kill it.

    Attitudes have changed very much since then. Many young people simply don't connect the meat that they eat with the animals that they see on TV or in real life.

  4. Very well said.
    Americans need to realize that the meat they are eating was alive. Face it, meat doesn't appear magically wrapped in plastic sitting on styrofoam.
    Oh and the "some sort of rabbit-defense society" just cracked me up

  5. Rabbit meat is a delicious, nutritious food, which has even been praised by the FDA as the most nutritious of meats. It has virtually no fat, nor cholesterol. It has many nutrients, and, frankly, cat and dog are eaten in some countries and I'd much rather eat rabbit!
    Chickens can be cute and so can cattle(I've raised chickens and live next to a cattle farmer-I am NOT giving up burgers, either!) The humane society others are always complaining about overpopulation but won't even consider butchering them, humanely, as an alternative. These animals which are "put to sleep" are not always done in a humane fashion. It's also wasteful. These people should be ashamed of themselves for abandoning such a rich food source when there is so much starvation in the world. You can feed non people grade things which may be safe for human consumption, such as certain types of grass, to rabbits and still eat the meat. It's really less wasteful. And so much better for the environment than cattle.

  6. Yep, well said. It was the pet comments that really steamed me following the original article on the NY rabbit project. But meat that results from CAFOs is somehow acceptable?

    I keep chickens and while I'm not thrilled that I might have to cull one of them, at least I can say the chickens are living with dignity (as much as poultry can muster..) and in comfort, they're eating well, and they want for nothing. Matter of fact, in the almost year I've had them, I've come to eat a lot less flesh than I did previously.

    If people would just take some personal responsibility for their consumption habits, and accept that meat is not this plentiful food that the USDA and the likes of Tyson and Smithfield would want us to believe, the planet would benefit immeasurably. Don't trust the industrial food complex on this one. If you're going to eat meat, try raising it yourself.

  7. Plus, let's not forget, plants have feelings too. Seriously, it's a scientific fact. You can't live in this world without consuming other living things. Even if you're a vegan, are you aware of where the plants you eat come from? What animals have been affected by the way your plants are grown? How about the facilities where your tofu and seitan is made? And so on. Not to mention, bunnies are a highly sustainable food source, since as everyone knows they reproduce enthusiastically.

  8. Right on, Samin! You are one smart cookie! I fully get what you are doing and totally respect you for it!!

  9. A difficult dilemma here, beyond the factory farming and death with dignity issues, is that there are animal rescue issues entangled with the culinary trends and sustainability issues. I have endlessly discussed the relativity of animals as food vs. pets & sacred beings, but the reality in 2010 California is that every single animal rescue volunteer deals with adoption counseling concerns when deliberating on a potential adopter. "Will this person eat the animal or love and care for it?"
    This should not EVER be what rescue people should question adopters about, as these people usually are tremendous empaths, such as yourself.
    I do unfortunately take great insult from your minimizing animal rescue efforts. The Humane Society and ASPCA have put in thousands of hours educating people on proper care of pets and to reduce it to a flippant comment is unecessary. I do hope that you one day consider the local efforts of Bay Area volunteers who seem to be in your disfavor by advocating for proper husbandry, in professional methods.
    As far as your assumption that we (as the crazed bunch of rabbit people) advocate for factory farming & cognitive dissonance between eating and farming, it is simply not true.
    Every day I intelligently interact with folks who want information on how to choose meat. My position is not to make the world vegan, that's not compassionate for most of the planet. Its also not possible for many poor people to afford "boutique meats", as they see them. When confronted with a family who is barely eeking out dinner these days, they may be tempted to raise animals at home, yet not have full knowledge of shelter adoption priorities, vs. ranch sourcing of animals.
    Please clarify and continue to educate.
    Thank you.