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A couple months ago I had bariatric surgery, and in the course of recovering I stumbled on an article on raising rabbits.  I became so fascinated that it quickly turned into an obsession.  I scoured the internet for articles and discussion forums and videos about breeding and raising rabbits for meat.  I plan to get a couple rabbits in September but wanted to present the case to the dailykos community on why rabbits may be the perfect option for people wanting to raise their own meat, even in a city environment.

1) Rabbits don’t need a lot of space.  They are perfectly happy in cages (as long as they’re large enough to hop around a bit).  A lot of people will also let their rabbits loose in “pens” in the back yard, but even a good sized apartment can accommodate a breeding pair of rabbits.

2) Rabbits are the most discreet livestock around.  With the exception of a rabbit being in severe pain or dying, they almost never make a sound.  This reinforces the need to kill a meat rabbit quickly and painlessly because a rabbit screaming in pain very closely resembles a child screaming in pain. But you could conceivably raise rabbits in your house or in a back yard shed and your neighbors won’t even be aware of it.  

3) Rabbit meat, pound for pound, has less fat and more protein than any commercially available meat.   Its taste is similar to white meat chicken, except the entire animal is lean white meat.

4) A single breeding doe (female rabbit) can produce over 40 offspring a year.  (which garners approx. 3 lbs of meat per rabbit).  That’s 120lbs a year of meat you can produce from a single rabbit.

5) Rabbits are very cheap to raise and keep.  Rabbits eat rabbit pellets (about $15 for a 50lb bag) and grass hay.  You can also supplement their diet with oats, barley, black oil sunflower seeds, fruit and vegetable scraps and yard trimmings (as long as there’s no chemicals involved).

6) In addition to meat, rabbits also produce fur that can be sold separately or used in craft projects.  Rabbit organs (liver, lungs, heart) are also very nutritious for dogs or cats to eat for those who want to feed their canivorous pets a more natural diet.

7) Rabbit droppings make excellent fertilizer for a vegetable or flower garden and they’re one of the only manures that can be given to plants directly without burning the roots.   Rabbit manure also doesn’t have a strong odor (once dry) and is also valuable for composting or vermicomposting (composting with worms).

They do have some downsides.  They’re incredibly soft and adorable and they’re also intelligent.  Many people keep them as pets and are horrified at the prospect of eating a rabbit much in the same way people are horrified at the prospect of eating a dog or a cat.   Here are some counters to that argument.  Being cute and intelligent doesn’t save any other livestock animal from being consumed for meat.  At least raising your own rabbits you can ensure they’re given the best life possible which cannot be said of a vast majority of cattle, chickens, pigs, lambs raised for meat in this country.   Every pound of meat you grow yourself in a caring and respectful manner, is a pound that is not raised in horrific, unsanitary conditions or subjected to chemical adulteration.   Short of becoming a vegetarian, you can’t do more to combat the corporate agricultural industry, and all the harm it does to people and animals alike, than growing your own meat.
That’s the argument, pros and cons.  I’ll let you stew that over a bit and the next diaries I'll cover more topics on care and raising, as well as selecting a breed of rabbit.  

Originally posted to DawnG on Sat Jul 09, 2011 at 02:38 PM PDT.

Also republished by Environmental Foodies, Urban Homesteading, and Living Simply.

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