Saturday’s rabbit workshop was perfect. It is simply amazing that you can learn a whole skill in just one day. Even the weather in the Bay Area was perfect. There were clouds and sunshine and short-sleeved shirts all around. Even after the brief drama of needing to change locations last minute, everyone arrived ready to learn.
It is so unfortunate that animal rights groups are more concerned with disrupting and destroying the work of good people trying to pass on a dying skill than the actual protection of animal rights. Some people have forgotten that as a species we are meat-eaters. Whether they like it or not, humans are built to eat other animals, even the cute ones, because we are animals too. We could all be so much healthier by simply by using reverence, acceptance, and by taking responsibility in what we eat, how we raise it, and in what manner it is prepared for the dinner table. As someone who was raised (to no fault of my parents) on neatly packaged grocery store meat, I know that it can be hard to accept and realize the fact that yes… an animal has died to give me this meal. It’s hard! But necessary.
Every single student of this rabbit workshop was hell bent on dispatching and processing rabbits in a respectful and humane way. Every. Single. Person. No one likes to see suffering. We all attended this class wanting to be educated in how to get the job done well and I think we all left feeling confident that this is something we can do ourselves. If you have never attended or watched a class or demonstration on processing an animal, I highly suggest you do so. Not only to learn the skill, but to see what it means for an animal to make it to your plate. YouTube and book illustrations just cannot compare to a first-hand experience. Even if you do not elect to eat meat, it is important for us not to lose sight of real life. A black styrofoam tray is not real life.
The first rabbit was the hardest. We all took a deep breath as the workshop instructor demonstrated how to quickly and humanely dispatch the rabbit using a pellet gun. I know that I will feel more at peace with this method as opposed to the “broomstick method” because there are very few ways this can go wrong. I won’t have to rely on strength or force; just aim. Throughout the entire demonstration I was simply amazed by how little blood and gore there was. I was expecting buckets of blood and guts and –honestly– I thought I would have either fainted or vomited just by watching. But I didn’t. It was much cleaner and simple than I imagined. Total, I saw maybe a few tablespoons worth of blood from start to finish. Everyone was full of questions and every single one was happily answered by the instructor.
The second rabbit was so much easier. We were prepared for what was ahead and we could volunteer to do a step of the butchering ourselves. I will proudly say that I volunteered for the step that I knew I would personally have the most emotional trouble with: dismembering the head. Before Saturday, this would have been a very daunting task, but I did it just fine even while looking into those big doe-like eyes. I also helped skin the rabbit which felt like pulling rubber off of a wet log. Weird is a good word for it. Nothing about this whole day was as I expected it to be. I think as long as you have someone experienced and respectful showing you the ropes, it’s hard to go wrong.
After a quick break for cooked, brined rabbit and rabbit stew, we gathered together to go over the tanning process. The instructor showed us the various stages of pelts in an aluminum sulfate and salt “pickling” solution and we all got to try our hand at “fleshing” and “breaking” skins.
I learned so much more within three hours than I had reading books and watching YouTube videos on butchering and tanning. For anyone looking to learn how to raise, butcher, and tan backyard rabbits I would recommend looking for someone experienced in surrounding towns and cities who are willing to give you a demonstration and some hands-on. Use common networking resources like: Facebook, Mother Earth News magazine and website, Craigslist, or even just your local paper. Just keep in mind that many people oppose eating clean and healthy meat so be careful when giving out your personal information.