"Is Rabbit the Ethical New Meat?" This was the title of a recent Vogue Magazine article and I did not stop reading as the author asked in the beginning of the article because she was going to end up eating a rabbit. Instead I wrote her and the magazine to disagree.
There is no doubt rabbit advocates still need to do more since these articles appear from time to time from trendy chefs who don't seem to realize domesticated rabbits can live to be 10 to 12 years old as house rabbits in a home just like a cat or dog. There is no doubt a so-called "meat rabbit's" life is diminished by over 90% so humans can enjoy a dinner of bunny flesh. It is an ethical issue as the author of the article stated. It concerns how someone chooses to perceive an animal who can learn its name (and many other words), show affection toward humans and bond with them for life. It is about rabbits that are smart enough to learn tricks like dogs (the rabbit hopping is catching on now in the USA) and use a litter box in the house like a cat. It is about millions of house rabbits who live inside homes in the USA and worldwide including many former “meat rabbits” and so-called "meat rabbit breeds." It is amazing to me a magazine whose readership is women oriented and would publish an article like this when the majority of companion rabbit fans are women like myself.
It is apparent the editors do not realize rabbits are butchered at 6 to 12 weeks before they reach reproductive age (think confined young calves aka veal) and most rabbit meat operations are not "free range" and very, very few rabbit meat operations allow frolicking in fields. Most rabbits sit in small hutches all day for their short lives without being able to express natural behaviors. I am appalled the editors don't get that rabbits are butchered at 12 weeks of age or less and it is not humane no matter how the deed is done.
Of course, many people argue that humans need meat to live - that argument is a moot point. I'm a vegetarian and millions of vegans/vegetarians can attest to living quite well without eating any animal products let alone animals considered a pet both in Europe, the USA and many other countries. If people cannot give up meat then why not at least forego rabbits who are widely kept as pets. Obviously, I don't subscribe to the notion that Europeans are the culinary taste arbiters and what they eat I should eat anymore than I would eat dog on a visit to some areas of the world.
Most rabbit meat producers and chefs write all this off as sentimentality and fluffy emotionalism to distract and diminish their detractors. It certainly is an ethical decision to cut an animal's life short by over 90% and objectify them to enjoy momentary gustatory pleasure. It goes without saying the rabbit meat producers' point of view is clouded by their monetary investment in this argument (including backyard breeders who say they save money on meat protein). Jobs and great meals are created by growing vegetables, saves money and the environment, too. When money is involved with raising and butchering bunnies, it negates the meat rabbit advocates' perspective due to their obvious profit motive. They have an investment in making sure people want their product. Sure rabbit is tasty to some people. Just about anything can be dressed up to cater to human taste, but it doesn't make it right.
Ironically, trendsetting magazines like Vogue should look at the trends. Some publications are catching on and have touted articles about rabbits as the "new companion animal" instead of a "new entrée." After all, rabbits don't make much noise and have the same schedule as most working adults (diurnal - active early morning and in late evening). It would be great to see more publications promote understanding these animals without objectifying and promoting them as food or fashion.
Honestly, I couldn't be more angry if they published an article about simmering a Siamese or poaching a Poodle since rabbits are valued just as much as cats and dogs as companions by many including myself.
(Pictured at top beautiful Hotots in a meat pen I photographed at a State Fair and the second photo is of my "meat breed" Mr. Hops at 9 years old with his friend, Bumble.)