Rabbit meat is delicious. I wish I didn't know that.
Rabbits bond for life. For most, instinct drives them to seek out another creature - usually one of their own kind, but it’s been known to encompass cats, guinea pigs, dogs or even birds. They’ll groom, cuddle and grieve palpably upon the other’s absence or loss.
Claudette, my nine-ish year old Hotot / dwarf mix (pictured above) is, as I was informed by my local rabbit rescue guru, bonded to me. She expresses this via chin rubs to shoes I’ve not previously worn around her (rabbits have scent glands with which they mark territory), a distinct drop-off in the bitchy behavior she demonstrates to nearly all other humans she’s encountered, and tooth-grinding purrs as I stroke her silken fur. We belong to each other.
At the same time, I can’t pretend that the most astonishing bite of food I ate in 2009 wasn’t a smoked rabbit kidney. In my defense, I didn’t order it; it was a gift from the chef of my favorite local restaurant. The rich, gamey, smoke-soaked flavor built in my mouth and did not ebb for many minutes. It made me grateful to have a tongue.
I debated for a minute or two before I ate it, and I apologized to my rabbits (there is another besides Claudette) upon my arrival at home. Yes, I sometimes anthropomorphize, but I felt genuine guilt when I looked into their faces. I take care of these animals. I enjoy and yes, love them. It is truly unnerving to know, quite specifically what is under their fur and how it tastes.
I gave up cooking and ordering rabbit - my most favorite meat - when I decided to adopt Claudette in 2004. It still shows up on my plate, sent out by chefs and friends who don't know that about me. I'm always conflicted.
I am a dedicated, enthusiastic eater of meat and especially offal - occasionally from animals I’d known while they were still living, thanks to some farmer friends who have no use for the heads, organs and extremities of the pigs and cows they slaughter for food. I don’t have qualms - well, not any more - about enjoying eating these creatures I’d seen walking, wallowing, eating and generally cavorting about. Parts would otherwise going to go to waste, so I eat them.
What gives rabbits more rights than these creatures?
In my book, nothing. I have eaten animals I knew when they were alive with no qualms. And, at least in the case of one particularly vicious Tom Turkey, with considerable relish. I'd have no problem dining on a backyard raised rabbit, except for the fact that pet rabbit breeds don't have enough meat to make it worth while.
But dogs are a different story. I would not knowingly dine on any dog, let alone one I had known personally, and I would gladly approve of a ban on anyone eating dog despite my general opposition to that sort of food paternalism.
Are dogs ethically different than, say, rabbits? Personally, I think rabbits don't really qualify as a companion animals, while dogs do, and you don't eat companions. I concede, however, that that's not a strong argument. Plenty of people like Kat Kinsman find rabbits very appealing compansions.
At the end of the day, I suppose there is no better answer than that I like dogs better than I like rabbits. Indeed, I like most dogs better than most people. But let's not follow that thought to its logical conclusion.