In July, 2016, we received the following email about our opinion on meat rabbits. This is the email along with our response.
From: PM (email redacted)
Date: Mon, Jul 18, 2016 at 12:28 PM
Subject: Considering rabbits ...
I'm a retired physician and animal lover who cares deeply for the lives of animals and people.
There are many whose bodies need meat for health, and are allergic to many of their options at stores.
I am considering, as part of the medicinal foods and sustainability movement, creating a rabbit rearing cooperative. People would learn how to manage animals with utmost respect for life, both as prey and predator, create their own and also buy meat where they know the animals had a good life and an instantaneous humane death.
Is there room in your movement for acceptability of this sort of venture?
Or will I be humiliated, maybe even shut down, by protesters with a single purpose - to protect the lives of bunnies, without consideration of the relationship of humans and animals in a healthy food cycle?
I'm open for your wisdom and advice, maybe tips on how to handle this so that what we're doing falls within the realm of acceptable food for a healthy diet among Americans who have been reared on only chicken, beef, turkey and hogs.
(Who also deserve a good life under the sun.)
Can we find revulsion of the meat industry common ground for a better way?
Is there any way I might obtain an endorsement from you considering the global picture and current food practices?
I am willing to consider whatever would bring you peace, and believe that with mutual respect we will find a way to meet needs all 'round.
Thank you for your time and open mind,
Thank you for reaching out. We are also animal lovers who care deeply for the lives of animals and people. In the same way that you ask for an open mind, we hope that you are open to our perspective also, and will take the time to read our response all the way through.
First, we want to understand what you mean when you state, “There are many whose bodies need meat for health,...” Our understanding is actually that the mainstream medical view is that vegetarian diets are beneficial for human health. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly called the American Dietetic Association), a mainstream organization of nutrition professionals, supports this view: "It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.". Kaiser Permanente has also taken this stance, stating “Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods”.
If you disagree with this, what nutrient do you think can be found in animal flesh that is not available from a plant-based source? Given that a vegetarian or vegan diet is becoming increasingly accepted and recommended by the mainstream medical and scientific communities what medical condition(s) do you think require animal flesh consumption for treatment?
Ethics & Spirituality
Since human health does not generally require that we eat animals, the vast majority of humans eat animals for reasons other than health; rather people eat animals for reasons of habit, taste, convenience or lack of education. Because no animal wants to die, or experience the death or suffering of their babies and companions, at a deep spiritual level, we think that these are poor reasons for eating animals. Every animal slaughtered struggles until their last breath. So in order to inflict violence against any being we think it’s really critical to understand if that violence is actually necessary.
If it turns out there is some medical condition that requires the consumption of animal flesh for health, we still think that farming animals of any kind is a poor solution. We believe that humane animal farming is a myth. There is no way to bring a life into this world, to truly love and respect that life, and then to kill them. Loving and respecting someone for who they are is incompatible with taking away the one thing they value the most: their life. If you replaced the word “rabbits” with “dogs” would you even consider such an idea? If not, protecting one species while raising and slaughtering others is inconsistent and culturally biased (speciesism).
If it turns out that there is some medical condition that requires the consumption of animal flesh for human health, then this would be a very rare situation, and likely there are more suitable solutions. For example, several companies are researching growing animal muscle in a laboratory environment without a central nervous system or brain attached, and this development appears to be close to fruition. (Washington Post article, New Harvest company website)
Other alternatives include the consumption of animals that are already killed without intention, such as animals that are killed in roadway accidents. It is estimated that one million animals are killed on American roadways each day. While some of these may not be suitable for human consumption, a certification process could be devised to test the safety of consuming this flesh and a system could be devised to distribute this meat to the small percentage of society for whom eating animal flesh is required.
As a last point, we wanted to touch on the environmental issue of animal agriculture. While many folks like to use words like “sustainable” with regards to animal agriculture practices, what does this word actually mean? Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. Growing plants to feed to animals to eat their flesh is inherently more inefficient than eating those plants directly. In addition, animals produce waste which may be usable as fertilizer in small quantities but not in the quantities that the system of animal agriculture produces. Please see the film Cowspiracy for more on the environmental effects of animal agriculture, including small-scale non-industrial animal agriculture.
We know that we’ve spoken in generalities so far, so we want to take a moment to talk about the rabbits we know and love. Did you know that a “meat” rabbit is the exact same breed as those adopted as loving pets? There are over 3 million pet rabbits in the U.S. Did you know that rabbits are as intelligent, loving and sensitive as cats and dogs? That rabbits bond to their rabbit and human friends for life? That they can die from grief? And that they learn their names, can be trained to do tricks like a dog and when spayed or neutered they use a litter box like a pampered indoor cat.
At SaveABunny, we have taken in many rabbits who were bred and meant to be killed for their flesh. Kingsley is one of these rabbits. He was rescued from a family-run meat farm in Sacramento. As in any situation where rabbits are viewed as a commodities, Kingsley experienced terrible trauma seeing his family members taken and slaughtered. Kingsley now experiences life and love and joy, as all of us deserve, and in turn, his human family members love him and feel joy in his presence. Please read Kingsley’s page for some words from his adoptive family.
We hope that you will consider our position, and the position of the rabbits who we are representing, with the same openness that you have requested of us.
Yours in compassion,
Lisa & Marcy, SaveABunny