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Rabbit-It's What's For Dinner

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Not everyone cottoned to the rabbit-for-dinner piece in the New York Times' dining section this month, pun intended.

"Would you have even considered reporting about raising dogs for dinner?" asked Nancy Schreiber of Great Neck, NY, appalled the Times would present the "gentle, beautiful, smart, sentient animals" as the "new chicken."

Parsa Ludhi of New York City agreed. "It is nothing short of mind-blowing to read an article that both intentionally, and maybe to a certain degree unintentionally, encourages the act of violence against these innocent creatures by inexperienced readers who suddenly believe that they can butcher their own meat because they read a 'how to,'" she wrote.

The Bunny-It's-What's-For-Dinner article continues the Times' culinary Realpolitik of depicting chefs and locavores raising and slaughtering their own animals.

Do It Yourself (DIY) killing not only circumvents factory farming and the hypocrisy of someone else killing your meat, it's the ultimate answer to "is it fresh?" like live animal markets in other parts of the world. (Though Illinois Agriculture officials raided Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill in December and confiscated local pig meat because it was so "fresh" it was uninspected and a possible health hazard.)

rabbit

It even provides a kind of hobby for those enamored by their own ability to transcend such a deeply engrained taboo.

DIY killing was immortalized in Michael Pollan's boar kill in the 2006 Omnivore's Dilemma and more recently in Michael Greenberg's Beg, Borrow, Steal in which he slaughters a chicken which starts "squawking wildly." Surprise. Animals don't want to die.

Even Yogi Mike Stokes extols DIY killing in a 2005 Yogi Times, recounting his participation in the slaughter of an elderly sheep named May. "I put my hands on her head. I gently petted and comforted her," before the kill he says, discovering he was "strangely at ease" with her death, possibly because it wasn't his own.

DIY is practiced, not surprisingly, at the controversial Christian charity Heifer International whose pets-for-dinner image was not helped by the photo of a lamb wearing an impending noose on its Christmas catalogue. School kids at Heifer's Global Village in Perryville, AK watch the teacher dispatch an animal for dinner if they vote to have meat. One mother wrote Arkansas' Fox 16 TV station that her son remains haunted year later by hearing the rabbit scream as its neck was broken at the Heifer establishment.

Heifer is supported by the Gates Foundation where Rajiv J. Shah, MD, recently named USAID Administrator, was a director.

Violating the human instinct against causing pain and death in another is such a rupture to the soul, it's the basis of gang and hazing initiations and dark magic rituals. Criminologists and law enforcement experts consider it a predictor of violence against humans and homicide.

Yet rejection of DIY killing and eating pet animals is increasingly cast as "squeamish"-like not wanting to clean up vomit-with the alternative, other meat.

"Yankees, of course, don't go out and shoot rabbits. They let somebody else raise them in cages," writes Greensboro News & Record columnist Gene Owens. Southerners have always "turned to rabbits, possums and coons when they couldn't afford beef or pork," he writes.

Even the progressive writer Barbara Ehrenreich perpetuates the gotta-have-meat construct in a Times oped last year, saying that eating squirrels, rabbits and raccoon was a way "to make ends meet" during the recession.

Don't let the hard times lower our cholesterol, blood pressure, cardio deaths and spare animals!

No, even though the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization indicts meat for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions; even though 18,000 deaths a year would be spared by 30 percent less meat consumption says a 2009 British study, we'll eye Fluffy when we're broke or bored.

No wonder Heifer International issued an emergency appeal after Haiti's earthquake to send livestock. They can graze the mudslides, craters and wreckage-and eat the food people don't have. Maybe they'll send rabbits too.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health

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