The Day the Bunnies Died: peek into the world of home rabbit farming and extreme locavorism

Updated Oct 12 2015

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

A very young bunny. He's the Next Generation of bunnies.

We’ve talked before about my friend Kyle. This summer he built a rabbit hutch and resumed breeding meat rabbits — something he's done since childhood.

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. 

Bunny hutch

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. 

Killing the bunny.

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.

This post originally appeared on Hipster Housewife. There are so many more photos of this afternoon on Flickr, if you're interested.

  1. I like the thought of getting up close and personal with an animal being butchered. While butchering in a commercial facility differs greatly from butchering in a local shop or someone's garage, I think it's important to remember that wherever it happens, a human is doing it (on some level) and the animal was once alive.

  2. I can appreciate that this might have been difficult to post. Will you be condemned? I'm still pretty darn removed from my food, but I'm learning more and more. Thank you for this, even the photos. We should know what happens.

  3. I admit, this icks me out a little bit, mostly because I am pretty squeamish, but I also grew up having food in the fridge or freezer that came from a neighbour or a friend or my dad, whether it was bunny, deer, cow or lamb. I'm used to the smaller operations (that being relative, of course), so it was a nice reminder that they ARE smaller operations and that there are some serious benefits to those operations like good treatment of animals.

  4. I'm always fascinated by organs, because I'm always surprised at how similar they look to medical drawings, and yet how different it is in "living color."

    I grew up in a rural county seat, so it was pretty normal to go over to a friend's house and eat frozen venison from last season's deer allowance (some families even butchered their own deer, but I think most of them went through more commercial butcher operations). Being a vegetarian is, in many communities, a luxury (you can afford processed proteins or have enough land to grow your own, vs. hunting from the community stock of meat proteins).

  5. I've butchered animals before (including rabbits), but I've never been involved in the actual killing. I really want to, though; I feel it's a moral obligation on my part if I'm to continue eating meat. I can't hide from the fact that I am taking a life, and I need to own up to it. However, it's really hard for me to overcome that final hurdle; I haven't done it yet.

    • I don't know if I could butcher an animal…but then I also thought I might freak out when Kyle and Ken did it, and I was fine.

      Sometimes I think about this stuff and remind myself that our species has been killing animals for millenia — I could probably handle it, too.

      • Butchering an animal is… interesting. And surprisingly difficult. It made me realize how language can evolve to mean something completely different than it originally did. When we use "butchered" as a metaphor, as in, "I totally butchered that presentation," we mean that we did sloppy, poor work – a hack job. But actual butchering takes skill and precision – exact opposite traits to what we generally evoke when we use it!

    • I can't "exactly" this comment enough. I think if everyone was required to kill and butcher their own animals in order to eat meat, they'd have more of an appreciation for all life. AND they wouldn't be so detached about where their food comes from.

      • Absolutely! Like you said, I can't agree with these notions enough. Also, I think when you establish an appreciation and connection for and with the food that you're eating, you also grow in respect for it. That respect lends itself to healthier and less wasteful eating habits.

        My dad is a small-scale cattle farmer and butchers 1 or 2 cows a year himself, depending on need. To see the cows that are chosen, to help feed them, to see their last moments and have a chance to bear witness to them serving their purpose is really a humbling experience.

        And now that I've typed all that out, I know I sound like a total weirdy, but it really helps put some perspective on where you stand in el ciclo sin fin. Food is so much more than food. It's life.

      • So true. And this method of killing is much more humane than the factory-farmed cattle and chickens that are literally cut into pieces while still very alive and quite aware of what's going on. I make sure the meat we buy was humanely raised/slaughtered (most of which is from the local farmer's market). I try not to eat a lot of meat anyways.

  6. Very good and interesting post. I had the privilege to attend the skinning of a couple or hares and pheasants once (they were shot during a hunt) and it looks similar. I think it is very important to know where our food comes from and how it gets from the stable/field to our plate. Thanks for this.

  7. I know that logically this is a better way for an animal to live and die compared to a factory farm. I totally respect that people can actually have that connection with what they are eating, because I believe that it really makes you appreciate that a living creature has given its life to nourish you. With that said though, it still makes me pretty uncomfortable. Being a vegetarian for 16 years has gotten me to the point that I just can't see animals as food anymore and to me, it just makes me sad no matter how the animal is killed. It's just not for me and I'm glad that barring a zombie apocalypse, I probably won't have to ever kill an animal.

    • I too have been a vegetarian for a long time, and while this also makes me squeamish and I am personally unlikely to ever eat meat again or directly take the life of an animal, I find it important to remember that vegetarians are not immune from causing the painful and tragic deaths of living creatures by the lifestyle choices they make. Industrial agriculture has destroyed so much natural habitat and so many of the grown food items we consume are entirely unsustainable and doing much more harm to Earth's living things than butchering bunnies in a backyard.

      That all goes out the window if you primarily grow and eat your own food and/or source it (very) locally, which is what I'm trying to do more and more of.

    • I was vegan for seven years before I decided to step up and learn how to raise my own food. I breed a rare breed of rabbit (the American Chinchilla rabbit) to maintain its bloodline and for food and fur. Mostly for food, but I don't want anything to go to waste. I will be harvesting my first litter this December. This past year has been eye-opening to me.

      We (my family) just started raising chickens and they are very happy, and treated kindly. (They love to get our scraps! Apple cores and broccoli stalks are their favourite treats. I also pick off cabbage worms from the garden for them and they are ecstatic about that.) But, we are not allowed to have roosters where we live, so once our "Clever Girl" crowed three times, "she" sang her own death knell. No one wants a mutt rooster – they're all over Craigslist for free. I caught him, and calmed him down, and held him whilst my brother chopped his head off. Was it fun? No. But I thanked him for his life and being kind to us and my girls. I butchered him and we're having him for dinner tonight. It was a quick, nigh painless kill. He didn't suffer, and had lived a happy life up until that point.

      I have a huge garden which feed my family, and the animals we own. I plan to use the giblets to feed my dogs. It's definitely a difficult step and a huge change of your mindset/paradigm, but it has worked out so far for me. I like knowing that my meat was raised happy, healthy, and loved.

        • We're learning this all through YouTube videos, and looking at old boyscout handbooks to learn how to tan. The first thing we're going to make is a Russian styled hat. I'll write a post about it after our harvest if you'd like.

          • Yes, PLEASE! Ken, Kyle, and I have been discussing learning tanning, but it seemed overly-daunting. I'd love to learn more, and it's such a lost art — I'd love to feature it here.

  8. Great article Cat. I think you need to break your vow just once and have a bit o bunny. The back straps are the best. I and my hunting friends call it "sweet meat". As a hunter I have always used the angle of being closer to my food when debating pros and cons with anti hunters. Even our fine local grocers have the meat come to their back door processed and cut to order, no more side of beef rolling into the cooler to be cut down by a butcher later. Many a city dweller has never witnessed the entire process from turf to table. It's a shame how they hide behind styrofoam platters. Can't wait for cold weather… the squirrels in Urbandale are looking good this season. Mmmmm!

    • I think we can make real impact on climate change, animal welfare, and sustainability when real human beings can find ways to talk about this kind of stuff outside of the media narrative of redneck carnivores versus PETA hippies. The comments on this post are a great start.

      There are bad apples in every bunch, but on the whole I've had many more rationale conversations about food and sustainability with hunters and outdoorsmen than I've had with "fellow" vegetarians, unfortunately.

    • Oh, I've tasted the bunny, Joe! And it was good. It'd been stewed for quite a while in a slow cooker. Once you've been away from meat for a while, though, it's gross. Not on a "this used to be a cute bunny" level, just on a texture level — especially if you hit tendons.

  9. I just want to say "thank you" for this post. I just started raising my own meat, and yesterday I had to butcher a rooster due to roosters being illegal in this area. We had thought he was a she. It's such a different world view to know your food. I've only had to butcher once before, and it was because one of my dogs caught a chicken that had escaped. We had to put her down as she was suffering – my dog did not mean to harm her, he just wanted to put her back in her run.

    I was vegan for seven years, and last summer I took steps to support local agriculture and help maintain the heritage livestock. I started eating meat again, and it was beyond bizarre – the texture alone weirded me out, but I moved past that after a while and am now a mini-farmer in a suburban area. We have four chickens (we had to sell one who was very loud, and then two had to be put down) and I raise a rare breed of meat rabbits called the American Chinchilla (http://www.albc-usa.org/cpl/americanchinchilla.html) which is listed as critical by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy. I am so happy to help keep these great rabbits going for future generations to enjoy. I may be getting a trio of Giant Angoras soon as well, which is another rare breed, but will be raised primarily for wool (I and my littlest sister knit).

    My mother and I maintain a large garden, and we have already planted our fall/winter plots. Yesterday I finished up planting a large amount of oats, which I then covered in hay.

    I am a university student (Electrical Engineering), a newlywed, and a student worker as a programmer. If I can do this, most people can. It takes me less than fifteen minutes in the morning to do my livestock chores.

    My first harvest will be this December. I'm both nervous and looking forward to having raised something entirely on my own. I love my life, and am happy to get out of the major mono-crop agriculture that has taken over this country. (The US and Canada)

  10. Bunnies are killed at harvest. I got to ride along in a tractor once, and somehow, I randomly noticed a bunny hopping away. Wasn't hopping fast enough from what I could tell. The driver said that's common. Small rodents live in fields and are often killed by pesticides and fertilizer, and are slaughtered by machinery.

    To be honest, I'd rather see them go the way you did, Cat. At least there's only a few, and the butchers did care about them. This had to be easier than seeing roadkill, as well. I get sick when I see roadkill.

  11. Awesome post!! Since coming back from Germany we've realized just how crappy conventional meats are (can't eat big box store meats without getting sick). I'd love to raise our own food eventually.

  12. i respect you for this.

    seriously, i do.

    i'll be hunting this fall, and sticking to areas within 50 miles of home, and i've been told i'll be the one doing the field dressing. i'm slightly apprehensive, mostly because i've never done anything like that before. i applaud you for sitting through that.

  13. The photos were necessarily explicit, but it was handled appropriately and didn't go overboard. I waffle with rabbits because I do rabbit rescue, but I think raising your own food (and butchering and processing it) is commendable. Nice work showing us the process.

    • Oh good. I know we have quite a few rabbit-lovers here and it's very, very delicate to recognize that what some people eat, others love and cuddle as pets.

      • I definitely cringed a little seeing those cute bunnies and knowing their fate (although this article was SO interesting!), but you did a GREAT job on the photographs Cat! As Carrie said – necessarily explicit but a little dark and a little silhouette action going on made it much easier to take in.

      • Yeah, I hesitated clicking on this article, as I've kept rabbits as snuggle-bunny-pets since I was a child, but felt that this was handled in a very appropriate way. I'm a big proponant of the locavore and Slow Food movements, so this article is definitely something that more people should become associated with.

  14. Thank you for this post. I'm a meat eater, but I'm completely removed from the actual harvesting of meat, and have never seen an animal butchered/harvested.

  15. Well, I knew I wouldn't be able to handle the more graphic pictures in this post, so I just enjoyed the ones of the cuddly (live) bunnies and skipped the rest. But that's why I don't eat animals, because I could never handle witnessing what Cat did.

    I can definitely appreciate people who humanely raise and/or hunt for their own food, even though I am not capable of it. I hope that this post either inspires people to make more thoughtful choices about where their meat comes from, or stop eating it all together because they realize they can't handle the reality of it.

    I just wish everyone were this thoughtful about their food.

    • honestly, i really wish more people would meet the cow they're about to turn into hamburgers…or the pig they're frying for their morning ham or bacon. i think a lot of things would change in the dietary habits of the nation if that styrofoam-and-plastic-wrapped distance didn't exist.

      • When my father bought a pig for my graduation party, the rule was that you HAD to watch your pig die to get it from the farmer. They took their best shooter and had them put the pigs down as quickly as possible. I have mad respect for that farmer. I haven't had to watch a food animal (other than fish) die in person, but even just videos or counting my in-laws cows as their numbers dwindle or seeing my dad dress a goose has generally helped me really appreciate where my meat is from. Couple that with my amazing butcher of a fiance, and we treat meat right in this house. Organs are opportunity, everything should be cooked properly and savored. I went veg for a year, and while I couldn't keep it up it did teach me a lot about being grateful for my meat.
        I think if I ever had to kill my own meat I would eat until I was sick, regardless if I even wanted to eat it. I can't let a death go to waste, that's for sure.

    • I am like you, once I hit a blood photo I had to skip the rest (because even something a small as that sparks my vomit reflex) – I am disapointed that I missed reading the rest of the article, it was really interesting!

  16. This comes at a great time for me: I have been reading/watching a glut of non-fiction related to homesteading and knowing the origins of one's food. Another good example of humanely raising animals for food is Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm. He has been featured in Michael Pollan's "the Omnivore's Dilemma" and in "Food, Inc." Both offer explicit views as to how he kills his meat animals – but also how they live. He comments how he feels that not just how he raises, but also how he kills his animals is an extension of his world view, that he affords them respect even in their last moments – and, unlike industrial meat operations, is completely open about his process, open to any of his customers who so desire to witness the process.

    I have considered raising meat rabbits when I eventually own my own place, but I am still very much undecided. While I think it is the height of carnivore-ethics to take responsibility for one's own meat consumption, I think rabbits are kind of too adorable for me to kill. To balance this, perhaps I will try hunting to truly appreciate where my meat comes from and take responsibility for the death and "foodification" of one animal.

    • I adore Joel Salatin. He's so great about furthering the awareness of how horrible our current agricultural system is.

      I helped myself get over the hump of "how cute and cuddly you are!" with my rabbits by deciding from the beginning that I can only have one or two "no kill" lovelies. My favourite doe has reached this position. I haven't decided on who the other one will be.

      The Cold Antler Farm (http://coldantlerfarm.blogspot.com/) blog really helped me in coming to terms with eating animals again and being more active about humane agriculture and locovorism.

  17. Um, but… so am I a horrible person for really never ever wanting to butcher my own food, or watch anyone do it? I mean, I love meat, and I know that I should have great respect for the animals it comes from, and I do. I am not asking that no one ever kills for food again. But is it really that bad to want my meat to show up in a nice little package? I wholly support local farming, and I didn't really mind seeing the pictures too much (although I was totally cringing the entire time), and I wouldn't mind if I got my meat from a neighbor who keeps cows or something but I really REALLY don't want to partake or see or even think about how they die or where it comes from. I respect the animals and appreciate that it must be done, and I don't think I could ever be a vegetarian (for various reasons).. argh. I know I would choose to go vegetarian for a meal or two if the only other option was to butcher my own animal. But is it really that bad the way the world is now to appreciate getting meat as meat and not as dead animal? I am truly asking whether it is bad. I don't know. I form an instant "connection" with an animal when I meet or even hear about it, and afterwards I can eat it, but it makes me horribly sad. Is it bad to not want to be sad, I guess?

    • My take? I love to see people learning about where their food comes from, thinking about their eating decisions, and making informed choices. That does not AT ALL mean that you MUST be willing to slaughter food as a meat-eater. In my mind, the important part of this is being curious, open to learning and questioning your experiences and decisions.

      Making a decision and deciding I WILL NEVER CHANGE MY MIND, THIS IS WHAT I BELIEVE, NO MATTER WHAT — that scares me. Someone who understands what they are and are not comfortable with? That isn't a bad thing at all, especially considering even reading this post might be a challenge.

    • Consciously making the decision "I know this happens, and I know seeing it might be difficult, and I don't want to see it" is more thought than most people give their daily food.

      That said, I think knowing the truth about any and every aspect of daily life can only be a good thing in the long-run for our species. It's just not always practical. I'm not sure if or when I'll ever have a chance to tour the mines where the rare metals in my iPhone come from or visit with the oppressed peoples of oil-exporting dictatorships that power the bus I ride. Food makes the world go round, and since there is an opportunity for most folks to understand it and see how it's produced, it seems like a great opportunity for anyone wanting to be a little more mindful of what they're consuming.

    • I'm with you, donteatmenooo. And while this is a passionate issue for a lot of people, I think that it's ok that, for some of us, this is where we sit out. There a great wide world out there of issues that need learning, awareness, and change, and you can't take it all on.

    • Just to give you an idea, I described this post to my partner and asked if she wanted to see it. I don't think the pout on her face disappeared for a minute…

      We all draw our lines.

  18. I put this on facebook, and I'll add it here too. On a logical level I can understand the necessity of raising rabbits for food when money is scarce. On every other level it breaks my heart.

    Killing rabbits for food because you want to; that is utterly disgusting to me. My bunnies show me love and affection, come to their names and if something frightens them, they show fear.

    If you MUST keep rabbits for meat, at least give them good lives before you kill them. Give them room to run and graze, play and rest. If they're giving up their lives to feed you, the least you can do is give up a portion of your lawn for them to live the life they do get. Oh, and the standard 'meat rabbit' breeds? More affectionate and intellegent than 'pet' breeds. I know, I have both snuggled up in my bungalow right now. Dominic, our rescue bun of indeterminable 'meat' breed, the most affectionate of the lot. He's also the only one we allow to freely roam the backyard. Bunny love.

    • On the one hand I agree with you: if you don't have to eat rabbits to live, then you are needlessly killing an intelligent and affectionate animal capable of feeling pain and fear. On the other hand, those same qualities are true of almost every animal used for food. Pigs, chickens, cows, goats, horses, guinea pigs – they all love a treat and a scratch behind the ears.

      • Entirely true, and the same rule applies. Pigs, chickens, cows etc don't want to be treated badly or killed any more than rabbits or humans do.

  19. Thanks for this post- I've only ever killed a fish myself, and its different with furry cute bunnies. i feel like i should learn more about my food and take responsibility for it- i've seen animals on family farms and see how they live, but i've never seen how they die. was glad this was posted, although its not so nice to see the little rabbit bodies. If i eat rabbit though, i should be able to deal with a photo.

  20. Another fan of Polyface Farm here. I was intrigued by the process he uses. After reading the Omnivore's Dilemma, I decided it was important to know where my food was coming from. Last summer, when I was out at my Landlord's farm, I asked if I could help butcher the chickens the next time he did it. He showed up at my house one day and let me know it was time for the harvest. At this point, I was about 4.5 months pregnant, but I was still game (and luckily didn't have to deal with morningsickness!) I thought it would be a little faster than it wound up being. He gave me a serrated knife to use instead of an axe and ultimately had to finish the cut for me because I thought I was taking too long. It was probably the best chicken (actually rooster) I've ever had. But I will admit that a bad dream that night kept me off chicken for the rest of my pregnancy. That one event has me now paying 3x as much and seeking out local sources for our meats and veggies, but ultimately – I feel really good about it, and myself.

  21. Thanks for this. I grew up on a livestock farm, and being from the Appalachians, have seen many a pig and cow slaughtered (but never a chicken-huh). I don't personally slaughter my own meat, but I definitely intend to take my son to a local farm when he is old enough to discuss what he eats and where it comes from. We also don't hide from him that the tasty chicken he had at grandma's was the same chicken he frolicked with in the garden just a few hours before.

  22. I'm Kyle. That's me up there at the top rockin a cutoff America t-shirt like an effing Boss. Not much of a commentor or blog reader but I figured I'd give me 2 cents.

    There is a lot of chat about the being more of a locavor and I'm cool with that. I agree with basically the whole article and the view it was written in. Great read and awesome to see all the different comments. I just come at this whole topic from a completely different angle then it seems the majority of the Offbeat Readers. To me, my whole raising rabbits, raising chickens, killing my food, raising my own garden, etc. was breed into me like my hair color or abnormally small feet. This is where food came from. We didn't have a lot of money and we ate what we had and if wanted more, well we went and got more. During the summer we ate a lot of fish. Fall was more Pheasant and Quail. Winter, spring and really all year was deer. I killed all of these things, thousands of times over. We weren't green. We weren't locavors. (Not saying I grew up in the hills of Appalachia, just small town Iowa.) It never seemed to be different or feel like was doing anything better (saving the world by not going to Walmart for my tube of burger) or worse (killing a cute pet bunny that would rather snuggle me at night) than anyone else. It was more fun and cheeper.

    Anyway, the hillbilly moved to the city (and the internet) and all of a sudden what I was doing seemed to be REALLY DIFFERENT. To some people I'm a murder and disgusting and that's fine. We may have dated. To others I might just be Neo. I'll pass on that. I never had a goal of killing anyones friend or starting a revolution. When Cat started writing articles about me I was more than happy to help out a friend but I didn't see where she was going with it. It is really fun to see this completely different view points. I have to say, my view of food and the world has widened DRAMATICALLY with my closest friends over the past few years. I eat sushi. I mean I recycle now for God's sake! You'll never see that at my parents house unless you start getting a nickel back for each newspaper.

    I don't need to live this way anymore. I make more money in my generic, middle class job in a year than my parents ever dreamed of combined. I want to because its fun to me. I like that I feel I am putting a smaller negative mark on the earth than the next guy I guess. Also I'm about the most arrogant person I know, I'm just really quite about it. I think I can do everything better. Give me a chair and I bet I could reupholster it better. Give me a tomato and I can grow one better. Take me to a great restaurant and we might sit and talk about how great the Tandoori chicken is but I'm thinking how I could do it better at home. If not now, I'll damn sure learn just so my stubborn Swedish blood can rest.

    Anyway, I do this stuff cause its me, its fun, I'm arrogant, and yes I do have a conscience. (I once fought off a few aggressively protective does while trying to free a very bitey fawn that was caught in a fence) You can love it, hate it, or feel completely indifferent. To me, you can grill a deer steak, a homemade vegan portobello burger, or brat from the discount rack at Walmart. I'm cool with that. If you come to my house I'd be more than happy to cook any or all for you and they will be effing delicious.

    Kyle

    • Kyle, what you wrote here reminds me so much of my dad… he had a completely different upbringing but a very similar outlook on food. And we too ate a lot of fish in the summer and pheasant and quail in the fall! 🙂

      And I would love to come around for a deer steak at your house. Too bad I live in Australia. 😉

    • Kyle, From the comments made here in these posts…you and I might want to start a hunting program for the locavore nation! I would not use the term "extreem" to describe this process. However, I prefer sleeves on my shirt. Just finished some "canibal burger" this weekend from a small town butcher shop in MN. No fears where you know where the meat came from.

    • I was raised on killing rabbits and turkeys. It's a wonderful and necessary tradition, and I'm so very grateful I was allowed that upbringing. It's a very sustainable practice since they are easy to raise and breed often. Glad to hear of others sharing the art in a good way 🙂

  23. i personally think if you eat an animal, you should be willing to do this process. i personally can't justify killing something just for a food craving, but that's everyone's choice to make. have i skinned & gutted animals in the past? yes … & it's partly why i became vegan. i found that once i connected myself with the process, it wasn't for me.

    so, i applaud pulling back the curtain. i think everyone should know where their food comes from, both plant & animal. it's not really fair to ask something to sacrifice it's life for you & then pretend that life was never there by covering your eyes & ears & pretending meat comes in a package & is never anything else. it's disrespectful to the animal & the people who were involved.

    ps- anyone who likes this post needs to watch food inc. it does an amazing job at looking at where our food comes from. temple grandin is a good one also.

    pps- i scrolled through the post bunny pics rather quickly so i'm not sure, but i really hope you kept the live bunnies VERY far away from the killing area. if they hear the scared bunny sounds, adrenaline will quickly get pumped in & that's not healthy for the person who will be eating it later.

    & yet another ps- i usually read these in my rss reader & i think maybe inserting a jump BEFORE the death part would be nice next time. gives people the choice since most feed readers make you scroll through the entire thing.

    thanks!

    • Our RSS feeds include full post text (I was threatened by a mob of torch-waving readers when I tried to make the feed an excerpt), so while the jump works on the homepage of the site, it's irrelevant for the RSS feed.

      That said, the "N" key in google RSS reader is my best friend for posts I don't want to read.

      • Thanks so much for this info! As a vegan I knew I wanted no part of the imagery of this post and so just chose not to click. So it was a shocker to see it in my google feed. Might I suggest putting this info at the beginning of posts such as this? I know I'll appreciate the reminder. Thanks!

  24. Thanks for sharing! This was very interesting–I love that you included such great pics. I grew up in farm country but until Gordon Ramsey's The F Word, I'd never seen anything killed & butchered. I do feel that people should know how to kill & butcher their own meat–or at least be able to observe its death. I'd like to learn to hunt; I think it would be a handy skill to have. (First steps–I've learned to shoot a rifle!)

  25. When I was a kid, we had chickens and ducks and geese and rabbits for fun as well as food. All spring through fall, we'd play with them and take care of them while knowing that they would end up as dinner. And I really think that animals you know had a good life taste better. ^^

    • And I really think that animals you know had a good life taste better.

      i agree. if they've been fed properly (i.e. cows eat grass and wildflowers and random other foliage, NOT CORN), they'll taste hella better than they do from a factory farm.

      my SO and i buy our meat from a local farm, and i try to make a point to meat the animals i'll be bringing home in plastic bags, post-butchering. i like to remind myself this was a living animal, and it had a face and some sort of identifier (either a name or a number). it had a life, and that life was good…and now it's going to feed my SO and me.

  26. Whoa, that's a serious trip down memory lane. Growing up, it was my responsibility to raise and butcher meat rabbits for the family. The same breed as in the article to boot!

    It's a big part of what's made me a vegetarian (not hating, just saying). But boy, do I love bringing it up when people whose meat always come wrapped in plastic start acting superior and like I'm the uninformed one.

    Thanks for sharing this post! I love these agriculturally oriented articles.

  27. Rabbits are not major food sources where I live. We eat more locally. Sheep, poultry, reindeer, fish, fish and more fish, and whale.
    I was reading this post and got a little "NOT THE BUNNIES", but that's the way of things. I am a chef, and deal with all kinds of raw meats, but never have experienced the butcher and slaughter of it. My husband said that as a child, growing up in the north of Norway, he once saw a massive whale being butchered with what looked like samurai weapons. That would be something to see!

  28. Wow Cat, thanks for bringing us along on your adventure/new experience and thank you for handling it in such a tasteful way. I haven't ever seen an animal butchered before and wish I had some friends like yours who did so I could check it out too. I've been thinking that when we move I would like some chickens (more for fresh eggs than meat) but butchering would be something I would need to learn regardless if I go that route.

  29. Thank you for this post. My grandma raises her own chickens, geese, ducks and pigs and I have been part of the the dispatching and butchering of livestock since I was a child.

    Last Christmas, I killed and butchered a pig on my own (under my grandma's supervision) for the first time. I had done chickens and ducks, but never a full grown pig. After all the work and blood and guts, I felt a new appreciation and deep connection with my food and a connection to my grandmother for all her work and sacrifice farming a on her own all these years. i was very proud to have eaten from a healthy, happy pig, that roamed freely around the farm and have never tasted pork as good as that one since. It's good to know where everything comes from and I'm glad that i did it. i plan on doing it again this year too.

  30. Great post! I'm not sure I'll ever be able to raise animals for meat (skinning, gutting, all this I can do, but a killing blow with my own hand is hard for me), though I do hunt for wild game. Maybe some day. Thank you for sharing your story! It's totally refreshing to read about raising/harvesting meat. It gets so little press.

  31. I'm not sure if other states do this, but in Nebraska the Game and Parks Commission has a "deer exchange" that connects hunters who have more meat than they need to folks who don't hunt and want the meat. For folks who want a connection to locally harvested meat, but don't have the skill, desire, or money to hunt themselves, it seems like a pretty great deal. We haven't done this yet since we don't have deep freeze to store the meat. I grew up eating fish, deer and pheasants my dad and brother harvested. Not only did it save our family money, venison is leaner than beef and it felt good knowing it was earth friendly. Thanks for the really interesting article Cat, and the interesting comments everyone.

    Here's more on the deer exchange, FYI:
    http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/hunting/programs/deerexchange/

  32. I've watched cows, pigs, chickens and rabbits all be butchered and didn't blink. It's a way of life around here.

    You know what I couldn't handle? Watching a live lobster being put in a pot of boiling water, lol! Something about it grossed me out too much.

  33. Well, I forced myself to read this whole article and I'm glad I did. I've been struggling with my 9-year-long vegetarianism for a couple months now (summer does that; too many delicious looking barbecues and parties), but this… this really got me back in line.

    That said, I do find where food comes from really interesting and I really appreciate people who take good care of the animals they plan to eat.

    Another commenter said that they thought vegetarianism was a luxury and I really have to respectfully disagree. I went my first 5 years without so much as seeing a protein supplement or soy product. If you have access to vegetables, you can be a healthy vegetarian. Sorry, I have a personal vendetta against the idea that the vegetarian diet needs any supplementing what-so-ever. Its an easy and practical diet and needs as much supplementing as a omnivore's diet (as in, only if you're terrible at feeding yourself!).

    • You know, we don't supplement our diets, either — a little tofu here and there and a few soy burgers once in a while. BUT — there is definitely the issue of being able to have much say at all in what you eat. If I was carless and living in a food desert I'd be pretty hard-pressed to eat vegetarian from the QuickTrip.

  34. Thank you for this post. I raise goats, and while we haven't yet taken the leap to butchering, I do sell the wethered boys for meat. For me, the toughest part is castrating. I put off banding my bucklings so their urinary tracts could develop, and wound up letting them get too big to band. Since they were my goats and my responsibility, I get to be the one with the knife. Someday, it will be me who takes one from pen to table. It is tough, but it is the commitment I made for eating meat.

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