Rabbits: Still Pets or Hopping Over
to the Dinner Plate?
A perfect little pet
Auctioned as a
If you have followed Tomten for a while, you know we try not to judge people's choices. We are all in
different places on our journey. But part of our mission is education. And so we share what we have learned about the status of rabbits today.
It is rare that we go to livestock auction and do not see meat rabbits. With their small size, low
noise and high meat yield (on average they eat four pounds of grain for every one pound of meat), they are very popular with those who wish to
butcher their meat in their back yards or sell to others who do.
Because these animals are not considered livestock by the USDA, they often do not receive
any more humane slaughter with commercial processor than they would a backyard breeder.
Oddly, the USDA classifies rabbits in the same group as chickens, as "poultry," so they are not
covered under the USDA's Humane Methods of Slaughter act. Even those buns shipped to the less than 100 slaughter houses that process rabbits
don't have to be stunned before being killed.
If you can, take a minute to think about that: they do not have to be stunned before they are killed.
In loving pet homes or sanctuaries, rabbits can live 10 years or more — but most within the meat
industry are killed at just 3 months old. Their feet are then often sold as a "lucky" novelty items (keychains, etc) while the rest of their body is sold
as food…even their heads (see below).
Always a favorite in Italy (look for the word coniglio on the menu next time you head to
Tuscany or American Italian restaurants) and many other European countries, America has decided that rabbit is now the even-newer trendy
white meat. According to Anne Fanatico, an associate professor of sustainable development at Appalachian State University in Boone, North
Carolina, "They're the next big thing in pastured livestock."
Globally approximately 1,083 million rabbits were slaughtered in 2015, which was 1.4% more than
the previous year figure. China (where the rabbit's head is considered a delicacy) accounted for 48% of that number.*
And that, readers, concludes our public service message regarding rabbits.
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