Our little farm has raised its first meat. Or rather, I should say I've raised our first meat. No one thought I had it in me, including myself. Nate said he didn't want to have anything to do with it. And he didn't. I reminded him that he spent hours fishing while growing up and that he cleaned and ate the fish he caught, but to him that isn't the same because he didn't know those fish. True, but he still took life. He didn't know the rabbits either. He wasn't the one who fed, watered and petted them daily. I don't blame him or think any less of him. I certainly can't sit in judgement of him, because up until the moment, I didn't know if I could do it.
Slaughtering an animal for food, especially one that you've raised, takes not only physical preparedness, but also mental preparedness. The physical preparedness was no problem. I knew I could assemble everything I needed to do the job. The mental preparedness was a little more difficult to wrap my mind around. To prepare myself, I watched videos online, I read the Rabbit chapter of Novella Carpenter's "Farm City," and I went and sat with the rabbits and thought long and hard about the task at hand. I thought of my beekeeping too. Some days when it's hot and sticky outside, like today, I really don't want to put on all of my equipment and go check the beehive. I know I'm going to sweat and the potential is there for getting stung. I hate getting stung. But, I know I have to check the hive for several reasons, mainly the health and maintenance of the hive. So, I do it. I go outside, and I get the job done. So, if I sometimes hate checking the hive, why keep bees? For the pleasure and reward I get when I extract honey. Several of my friends told me before I slaughtered the rabbits that they would only do something like that if they were starving and they had no other choice. If it boils down to choice, I feel like I have no other choice. I have grave concerns about the meat industry and how it treats its animals, and while I've been a vegetarian in the past, I enjoy eating meat. So, the answer to my dilemma was to raise my own.
On the day at hand, Nate's friend, Aaron, came over with his two kids to help. He has experience with rabbits, so I felt like he would be the best person for the job of helping me. What amazed me was the reaction of his two kids, a son and daughter. They were fascinated with the process. I mentioned to Aaron my awe, and he said he had been talking to them all week about it. I like to think they embraced it in their childhood innocence because they haven't been stigmatized yet by the void the meat industry and society have created with regard to how an animal is raised for the table. We are so separated from this experience that all most of us knows is the packaged meat at the grocery store that looks nothing like the animal itself. I'm honored and humbled to have had this experience, and just like when I eat a vegetable I've grown myself or an egg one of my chickens has laid, I felt equally so when we ate the first rabbit because I know what it took to raise it in a clean healthy environment, to show reverence for a life, and to dispatch it humanely and with thanks.