Heat for Meat: Conservation Aside, Among Carnivores, Some Animals Are Less Edible Than Others

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Could you eat this face?

Last week, the food world went wabbit cwazy, as both the Times and the website Food Curated featured items on raising rabbit for food. The Times argued that this locavoric effort was the ultimate in shrinking and controlling the food chain, while Food Curated took a more neutral approach, simply showing how a rabbit farm operates. The response to both has been heated and split.

In a letter to the Times editor, Nancy Schreiber from Great Neck, N.Y. wrote:

"I am appalled at your article.

These are gentle, beautiful, smart, sentient animals, who never get a fair break in our society. They are constantly neglected, abused, and dying premature deaths when purchased as pets.

Now you're promoting them as the new chicken? Would you have even considered reporting about raising dogs for dinner? Of course not -- you wouldn't take a chance on offending your readers.

Well, I guess you don't know your readership too well. I have been a subscriber to The New York Times for many years, but I am canceling my subscription today."

Meanwhile, Jacqueline T. Marsh of Westminster, Mass., said:

"Thank you for your courageous article today on the raising, killing and cooking of rabbit. As an enthusiastic locavore, I applaud any effort to encourage people to take charge of their own food supply, and this article was right on target. You are going to get many letters on your decision to publish it. I wanted mine to be congratulatory."
Liza de Guia of Food Curated has been busy responding to the dozens of comments on her website, which range from commending to condemning. A viewer named Eugene ranted:
"I don't care how 'humane' this guy's farm and process is. This is utterly disgusting. I know rabbit is on menus througout [sic] NYC and the world, and has been for decades... centuries... but rabbit is NOT AN OKAY FOOD TO EAT! I come from a bunny raising household (strictly as loving and attended family pets), so have very strong opinions. But in America, where there is a vast and thriving meat market for beef, chicken and pork.... RABBIT should not be a special industry for those who have the taste and the cash. I can hardly watch this video, it makes me want to throw-up."


Another viewer, Melissa, responded:

"Eugene, people with pet pigs might say the same about them. Pigs are far far more intelligent and social too...and factory farmed pigs are kept in worse conditions than these rabbits."

And the debate rages on beyond these borders, although in other forms. Canadian officials are serving seal meat this week in protest of a E.U. ban on seal, reports The Guardian. The ban was introduced because hunting seal is seen as cruel. But the Canadian government considers it sustainable, humane, and a crucial source of food and income to certain Far North communities.

In China, eating dog and cat meat may soon be illegal, which would force a number of restaurants to close or find new specialties. The issue here is less the abhorrent way the animals are kept and slaughtered, but rather the perception the rest of the world has of a country that consumes animals we know only as pets.

According to certain Chinese, "Dog meat is good for your health and metabolism... In the summer, it helps you sweat." And let's not forget the Italian TV chef who last month extolled the delights of "tender, white cat meat," only to be promptly fired thereafter.

Why is it that certain meats are off-limits to certain people, and -- perhaps, more interestingly -- why are some people so fiercely protective and self-righteous about those limitations? A person, say, who has ridden horses all her life might not be able to eat bavette de cheval (not uncommon in France), but must be able to recognize that someone else with different values might be appalled at her for eating pig... or even squid.

It's a curious new religion, eating is.



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