The Nest of Six New Rabbits

We brought rabbits
to live at Turtle Rock Farm:
A Center for Sustainability, Spirituality and Healing
because their manure
is great food
for the Red Wiggler worms
who compost
kitchen scraps.
We enjoyed
having rabbits,
who also eat kitchen scraps.
After we learned
that Red Wiggler Worms
also love alpaca manure,
of which we have an abundance,
we still used the rabbit manure,
but mostly we simply enjoyed the rabbits.
They were beautiful
and built a series of burrows
in their pen in the barn
and would come up
to eat lettuce from our hands.
But then those first three rabbits died—
too much rich, spring grass for some;
another, mysteriously.
After awhile,
missing the rabbits,
we got two more.
It wasn’t really a decision
made in consideration of our mission
of sustainability;
we brought them here
to enjoy their company.
The first three had all been females.
But these two rabbits
made three new rabbits
about a month ago.
We knew then we had a dilemma.
Maybe we start raising rabbits
for meat, we thought.
Then we forgot to think about it,
and a month passed in a flash.
Yesterday,
there were six more,
their eyes not yet open.
Last night,
we put Pappa rabbit into solitude,
in the rabbit village of burrows
the former residents
had created in the barn.
When the adolescent rabbits are weaned
and we can determine
their gender,
the males will stay in one pen,
the females in another.
But we have to decide:
are we going to raise rabbits
for meat?
This is an aspect of sustainability
we have so far avoided:
killing animals.
Rabbits, like chickens,
are a good “crop”
because you can kill and dress them
one at a time,
as you need them,
so they don’t require electricity
(fossil fuel)
to preserve them.
They provide high-protein meat,
high in amino acids,
low in saturated fat.
The question is:
can we do it?
And do we want to?
Trying to live sustainably
forces us to think about
things like:
Is raising meat good for the planet?
In particular,
is raising rabbits
and chickens
good for the planet?
And things like:
Can we kill meat we want to eat?
Shouldn’t we be able to?
Our grandmothers and grandfathers
did.
Yesterday,
aware of these pressing questions,
as I was cutting a beautiful red tomato
for lunch,
it dawned on me:
I need to thank this tomato,
for growing up,
becoming a tomato,
giving its life
to me.