Rabbits: Kill My Own

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So I got all fired up by some reading lately, and being cheap, and I spotted some fat rabbits out my mom's window, and I got to thinking: why not just bag the suckers and stop paying for food so much? And then I thought, okay, use a Havahart trap, let 'em fast 24 hours, they'll be cleaner. So I did research about this, and I realized my stomach isn't as tough as I thought. I found myself thinking, um, wait, skin it and cut it up and all that, I'm OK with that, but KILL it? With my bare hands? Errrrrmmmmmmmm....

Let me be clear. Offal? Yes. Kill a lobster? In a heartbeat. Chickens? Never done it, but it doesn't bother me as a concept. But mammals? I mean, fuzzy guys like me? Really? How do I get over this? I want to, truly. I want to be ready to bag something delicious without a qualm, but it does bug me. It also bugs me that a serious cook who likes meat has issues about the living beings he eats meat from, yet I have trouble getting over this.

I also want to take out wild turkeys in Vermont, where the darn things get everywhere and are pests, but I don't know how to do this without a gun and I have issues about buying a gun in the USA these days -- I'm afraid it's a vote for people I don't like, you know?

My great culinary heroes do this stuff, no problem, because they grew up in France or wherever and it was normal then and there. It's not so much, now, here.

What do I do?
 
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I feel much the same as you do. i have never killed my food(overcooked...yes) but never actually killed an animal for consumption. There is a large part of me that feels that i should take part in the ritualistic act that is animal sacrifice for food. you're right. all of the top chefs talk about being a part of that experience and it having changed the way they think about their food.

the idea i have come up with and have not yet followed through on, is to find a local farm. you know the ones. they appear on all the hip restaurant's menus. get to know them. let them know that you are a serious cook and want to know where your food comes from. you will probably get a tour of the farm and if they believe you're serious enough, maybe be invited to a slaughter.

the chances that you will actually kill an animal are slim, but at least you will be able to experience it first hand.

i don't think i could kill a pig or lamb by holding it, slicing it's neck and letting it bleed. i certainly couldn't hold a gun and shoot something. but i think to be there and be involved in the process, if it is done in a humane way with animals that have lived a good life, then you are that much better for it.
 
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It's interesting that the goddess Diana was pictured always with animals around her, like deer, and she was a sort of protectress of them.  And that in societies where all animal food that is eaten is killed by the same people who eat it, or in their presence, there is often a very strong respect for the animals they eat. I think it;s a bit different from hunting for sport, stuff the head, hang it on the wall, that sort of thing.  (You might say, yeah, and so why is wearing the skin or the feathers of the prey you've killed for food in a ritual dance any better?  I don't know, but it does feel different to me).  Aristocrats hunted in the middle ages and so on, because it was good practice for war.  Peasants slaughtered animals, (though usually not for their own use.)

We raised chickens and rabbits when i was a kid.  We slaughtered our own chickens but sent the rabbits down the street by some people who did it for us. 

My father asked the guy who sold him the chicks how to kill a chicken when it was time.  The guy picked up a big rooster he was going to cook for supper and showed him - you take the head like this between your first and second finger, and hold the body and then with a sharp pull you break his neck and he dies. 

The chicks grow up, it's sunday and comes the time my mother asks my father to kill her a chicken.  My father, who had hands like a gorilla (bent bottlecaps between thumb and forefinger), was in his white shirt and tie, just back from church.  He goes to the chicken pen and picks a likely specimen - pulls on the head and ...

of course, the whole head comes off, he's covered in blood from head to toe, and my mother nearly has to be taken to the hospital for a hysterical fit when he comes in bloodied like he stepped on a land mine. 

The task passed to my uncle who hung them from a nail in a tree, slit their neck and let them bleed out.  He had read it somewhere. 

I knew our bunnies were being killed and eaten, and i really did love fried rabbit (and they had four whole drumsticks, not two!) but pretended not to know they were being killed.  Well, i was 6. 

But anyway, I agree with you fully, Chris.  I think if we're going to eat animals, we shouldn't be squeamish about them being killed (I wouldn't want to eat them live after all!) but, to translate an Italian saying, "between saying and doing there is a sea of difference" (tra il dire e il fare c'e' di mezzo il mare).  I'll be curious if you manage to do this. 

By the way, i do know many people here who have participated in the slaughter of a pig, which is a big deal and involved many people, and lots of feasting, as well as turning a whole lot of the animal into sausages and such.  It still sounds like an ancient ritual to me. 
 
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I've done it. It's not that  great....don't think it ever will be.. just neccessary. Worse is killing them cause they are sick or mauled by something but still alive. I don't want to get political but I own a gun to kill animals that need killing. It's fast and merciful and common sense dictates it's needed at times. I had one friend say they wouldn't be visiting while I owned it as no one has any legitimate reason for a gun anymore, I said fine, you may need to mature a bit before you visit me again anyway. city folk, you make me crazy sometimes.
 
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I don't mind eating a rabbit, but killing one myself bothers me because when they are alive I tend to think of them more as pets then dinner. Don't know how I can really feel that way, guess it's ironic.
 
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I've done it. It's not that  great....don't think it ever will be.. just neccessary. Worse is killing them cause they are sick or mauled by something but still alive. I don't want to get political but I own a gun to kill animals that need killing. It's fast and merciful and common sense dictates it's needed at times. I had one friend say they wouldn't be visiting while I owned it as no one has any legitimate reason for a gun anymore, I said fine, you may need to mature a bit before you visit me again anyway. city folk, you make me crazy sometimes.
That's really not what I meant about guns. I suspect I basically agree with you. But let's not get into it -- as you say, let's not get political.
 
I don't mind eating a rabbit, but killing one myself bothers me because when they are alive I tend to think of them more as pets then dinner. Don't know how I can really feel that way, guess it's ironic.
That's almost precisely what my wife said.
 

phatch

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Read On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman.

He talks about this disconnect in society between what we eat and where it comes from, our basic disconnect with death, birth and the processes involved in both. They used to happen in the home for what was raised and eaten. Births happened in the home, people died at home. But not anymore.  

Also lots of talk from the military angle of how you get people to kill people and how the shooting rates in historic conflicts are apparently low.

I'm not sure I agree with his theory of violence in entertainment leading to the efficiency of modern military violence but the book will make you think about many things.

Similarly, there is a good dose of anthrpomorphism in what animals are OK to eat and those we treat as pets as well as which animals we like and which we fear. This book is outdated, but interesting nonetheless The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris
 
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Interesting? Yeah, you could say that about The Naked Ape. Of course it was out-dated before it was published.

Problem is, Morris tends to argue backwards from modern social mores in order to explain evolutionary trends. Plus, of course, Margaret Mead was his main influence, and that skewed his interpretation of things as well. .

See for instance his discussion of sexual mimicry as the basis for large breasts in human females. Pure BS, even at the time. And the idea that monogamy in humans is a biological imperative is nonsense. Very few animals pair-bond, because it is contrasurvival, and that number, most emphatically, does not include humans.

Much better popular anthropology, more or less contemporaneous with Morris, are "African Genisis," and "The Descent of Woman." What's really interesting about those two is that their speculations and interpretations have held up, over the years.
 
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For me, the entertainment angle seems to work backwards -- not that I've read Grossman's book, but that argument gets made in various ways in various places. A lot of folks think that seeing violence on TV all the time makes us jaded. Perhaps that's true for some, but for me it's the other way around: real violence and blood and death, with animals or people, freaks me out in a way stuff on TV doesn't, perhaps because I expect it to be tidy like on TV. I have no real fear of blood -- used to work in the MGH surgical wards, no problem there -- but I know in myself that if someone handed me a live chicken or rabbit, I'd have a very hard time doing the necessary deed.

I think those who suggest finding a farm and being in at the kill, as it were, are basically right. The only problem is that the farms I know in VT that raise food animals generally hire a traveling slaughterer, who comes with a truck. It's done in batches, not the old way where mom went out and killed a chicken for the pot.

Well, one of these days. I'd dearly like to know that I can turn that irritating pest of a rabbit who eats the plants into a good dinner, and right now I know that I probably couldn't. That bugs me.
 
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I have killed and butchered pigs, cattle, deer, various birds... it is part of the food chain and someone has to do it. The meat in the store gets to the little foam trays the same way.
 
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I think this is an interesting thread, and I'm glad it did not get into politics. My father, and most of his relatives, grew up in Florida without much money. He hunted at around age 6 for birds, he would bring them home and his mother would clean them and cook them up for him. As he grew he hunted deer, and wild boar, gators, and of course he fished. For many back then, the land was a source of nourishment. People didn't do these things simply for the fun of doing them, they did them for sustenance.

I agree that when you take the life of an animal, there is typically a tremendous amount of respect towards that life. I don't hunt, but that is by choice because I simply don't want to have to deal with field dressing a deer, or boar. I do fish though, and my good friend does. We never take a fish we don't plan to eat, and if we do catch one to release, we are careful to ensure we do not injure the fish, and also to ensure a successful release.

As for whacking peter cottontail, I think perhaps you will have remorse if you trap and kill one. Or you might trap it and then not be able to kill it. If I were you, I'd pick up a 22 rifle and have the responsibility to be accurate with it. One shot, done correctly should quickly kill the rabbit. I would feel better about doing that then trapping it, but that might just be me. If the main goal of trapping it is to prepare it for food, by giving it grain feed etc. then that is completely reasonable. You should open the cage though when it comes time and give it a 3 second head start! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lever.gif
 
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I've read that rabbits will be easier to prepare and tastier to eat if they fast for 24 hours -- that's the only reason. There are also quite strict laws about shooting anything with anything in the middle of the city, so nabbing the buggers with a .22 is probably out anyway.
 
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A good slingshot and a ball bearing is nothing to sneeze at as far as effectiveness and silence./img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif
 
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Boy did this get philosophical.  I was going to suggest holding the critter down and giving it a nice smack in the back of the neck with something but that doesn't sound relevant.  It's surprising how disconnected some people are from their food and consequently, reality.  As a cook I feel its important to get in touch with this side of your ingredients.  Once you've hunted for food (which is in essence what you are doing) you gain a respect for the creature which was once a living breathing thing.  This will forever force one to honor their ingredients.  I have no problem shooting a rabbit but if I shoot it for consumption and it goes to waste instead--that bums me out.
 
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Gunnar: Can you do it with a real sling, rather than one of those forked stick doohickies?
right now? no. Funny you ask, I was thinking I need to make a new one and practice again.I did have slings I made as a kid and practiced on dads beer cans. I even made one for waterballoons, came about 50 feet shorter then 3 guys with a surgical tubing  launcher. I was way more accurate at hitting the guys in the canoes we were using for targets though. The camp guys couldn't beleive what a kid with some waxed string and the backpocket off a pair of cutoff blue jeans could make in 10 minutes and be accurate in ten more. only issue is that sometimes the balloon would hit the loop of string on the release, nice big water explosion about 2 feet from the end f your arm.
 
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Speaking of killing rabbits and entertainment I wish I had a direct link to provide.  Go to hulu.com and look for the TV show Kitchen Confidential, the Rabbit Test episode.

I liked that show, too bad it didn't last.

mjb.

Okay, I went back and watched the rabbit episode.  It may have some, uh, mature themes involved, be forewarned.
 
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