This post is explicit. A few photos in the back half of the article might make you sad or nauseous. I hope you’ll read it if you want to join the discussion of where our food comes from. -Cat
When it came time to butcher the rabbits he’s raised this summer, he invited me over. He and Ken, his rabbit buddy, butchered one rabbit a few weeks earlier, but now it was time for the other five in the litter.
I didn’t have a second thought about whether I would go see this butchering happen because — hi. I want to see all the things ever happening in the world. But I wasn’t sure what my reaction to seeing it would be. I’m not squeamish but I mean…I’ve never seen something bigger than a fish die by someone’s hand. Maybe I’d have a sudden horrifying rush and barf everywhere or — oh God — cry.
But of course I was going to go. I’ve never seen a butchering before! I love organs and bones and seeing the insides of things! Other than the possibly-traumatic bunny death, this would be my best day all month!
I’ve eaten vegetarian for about five years — ever since I drunkenly discussed industrial agriculture with a friend one night and made a declaration, because that is how I do. But I’m also an intensely curious person — and I’ve felt for a long time like I have a good grasp on what factory farming looks like, but little idea of what more traditional, small-scale operations do. Kyle is a prolific hunter, and my (very personal) opinion is that his habits make him the best locavore I know.
First, Kyle sharpened his very tiny knife. I didn’t ask why he didn’t use a bigger knife. Maybe that was a good-sized knife for rabbits.
It’s getting to be the golden hour and it’s almost cool enough for a long sleeve shirt and it seems pretty effing idyllic to be going out to pluck a rabbit from a green backyard, butcher it and put it in one’s stewpot. And I guess I’m here because I wanted to find out how idyllic it actually was. I like to know when I’m just fantasizing about the unknown.
These guys have about 10 minutes left to live, by the way.
Ken and Kyle take six bunnies out of the cage and plunk them into a milkcrate. I admire bunny fur while they talk.
They weigh the bunnies. I guess I’m not sure why. Just to see? They did compare them to the first bunny. And then they sexed them — they were considering holding a female back for further breeding.
There was just one girl bunny, and apparently Kyle’s prodding determined she had bones in the right places and was a suitable genetic specimen because she was deemed saved.
Spared bunny identified and all bunnies weighed, the guys crated them for the long trip 30 feet to the garage. It was then that I realized we were those people. Future children of Kyle’s neighbors would hear about how we did weird things. Because we are about to butcher five rabbits in a suburban garage.
Ken and Kyle set up a Death Area. A Butchering Zone. They overturn a milk crate — for Ken to stand on while holding a bunny body so Kyle can get leverage to deglove it — and set up a five gallon bucket with liners to catch blood, guts, and bunny extremities.
And then, Kyle picks the first bunny up by its rear legs and kills it.
I shit you not: you knock bunnies out with a karate chop.
The little guy is out before his neck is broken by the bar.
Kyle uses the teeny tiny knife to cut off Bunny’s head and drops it in the bin. He quickly moves the body over it, too, to let the blood drain out.
There isn’t very much blood. This shouldn’t surprise me, but it did. It seems like there’s maybe a cup with of blood total in a rabbit. I’ve bled that much and haven’t needed stitches! I know. I’m much, much, larger. Ken and Kyle informed me.
Ken grabs the rabbit’s shoulders and holds the body firm while Kyle slices through the skin — very lightly — all the way down the middle of the body.
The guys tell me that, when learning to butcher, the degloving is compared to “helping a lady remove her coat.” I am not on board with that.
When the skin is off, Kyle again slices down the middle of the body to split open the pocket which holds the organs. He carefully slips his knife behind their connections at both ends — at the neck and the groin — and flips the whole body over to dump the delicious organs into the liner.
I’m fascinated by these organs. I really want to look at them more closely, but I don’t want to get in the way of the butchering, and I also don’t really want to touch them. Kyle tells me they once found a heart still beating inside the chest cavity and I am intrigued. Would I die with sadness over that or would it be cool to see a heart beat and move?
Bunny ends up in the meat bin, ready to move on to the next step.
The guys do the other five rabbits. I’m not really bothered. One bunny squeals and I cringe, but even he only has a few moments of pain before he’s gone. I keep remembering — everyone has to eat. We kill animals and our parents killed animals and that is what our omnivorous species does.
I don’t feel sad or grossed out after the butchering, but I do have a slight need to wash my hands just because I was in the vicinity. And change all my clothes and definitely take off my shoes.
I would not enjoy killing my own animals, so I’m glad I can be satisfied with growing my food in vegetable form. However, I’m concerned daily with how separated from our food we are, and interested in becoming closer to my sustenance.
I see these animals Kyle raises, and see how much food he gets for his resources and effort and how kindly the animals are treated from beginning to end and I want everyone to see it. I think it is pretty idyllic; blood and guts be damned.