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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.


Dealing With Outside Criticism as a Homesteader

By Lydia Noyes


Tags: rabbits, raising livestock, homestead inspiration, homestead planning, Appalachia, West Virginia, Lydia noyes,

I don’t know whether I’m naïve or too good at surrounding myself with people who think like me, but ever since my husband and I moved to our historic Appalachian homestead last August, strongly negative responses to my back-to-nature lifestyle have caught me completely by surprise. One topic that has recently raised particular contempt for me online has been my decision to raise meat rabbits.

cage indoors

When we first got our rabbits a few weeks ago, I giddily wrote a quick Facebook post and shared it in a few homesteading/simple living groups. The response back to me was very tepid. This was right around the time Facebook introduced the “emotional spectrum of likes”, and suffice it to say my status got a lot of the faces filled with tears and boiling rage.

I even got caught in an angry twitter conversation after posting the seemingly innocent tweet “the Knob house now has meat rabbits!” A realtor in Florida took great offence and made her judgement of me known.

“Shame on you for killing these beautiful soft souls…robbing animals who trust 'n love you of years of life so u can have a meal or two is twisted thinking n horribly wrong! Wake up… One day u will b dismayed by what u did.”

Yikes.

Funny thing is, I posted a nearly identical posts a few months ago when we first got chickens. I even made it clear that they were livestock, not pets, and that I fully intend to eat most of them someday. But I didn’t get a single negative response. Strange, because if I had to rank the two species based on criteria like general likability, enjoyment provided to the owner, and depth of individuality, chickens would beat rabbits in every category. My laying ladies have far more personality  than the skittish bunnies that burrow themselves deep in their boxes when I come too close. I feed them both a very similar amount and type of food, and they even live in the same space (the chicken coop). Why people have had such different responses to my bunnies than my birds is beyond me. I’d chalk it up to the “mammal effect”, except I have a strong feeling a lot of my critics wouldn’t think twice about digging into a juicy steak or a side of bacon.

 cage outdoors

The ultimate irony is how guilty of rabbit slaughter the typical vegetarian diet actually is. Though it’s almost impossible to collect exact data, many scientists estimate that millions of rabbits and other small rodents are killed every year by the plows that rip through the soybean, corn and wheat fields non-meat eaters are so dependent on. And a lot of these deaths are of babies and mothers in their underground nests.

Given this reality, is it so terrible to provide a few rabbits with a pleasant, food-rich life for several months before respectfully butchering them? Sounds more humane than death by plow to me.

ian

I believe that locally sourced, sustainably raised meat can constitute one part of a healthy, ecologically conscious diet. For me, this means taking steps to raise some of this meat myself. I can control exactly what my rabbits eat, and so gain more control over what goes into my body. I can put their excrement into the garden, use it to grow more robust vegetables, and feed any excess produce right back to them. Raising and butchering my own meat is one essential link in my system of achieving greater sustainability, and no naysayer is going to temper my enthusiasm.

But maybe I won’t invite them over for dinner.

Lydia Noyes is serving as an Americorps volunteer with her husband in West Virginia at the Big Laurel Learning Center. There, they live with two nuns and help to run a sustainable homestead mountain-ridge retreat and ecology center that resides on a 500-acre land trust. You can find her at her personal blog and Instagram. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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donny
4/22/2016 11:01:16 PM

"...beautiful soft souls". BAHAHAHA!! The scars on my arms and hands and a whole host of memories, like a full mama rabbit surrounded by half-eaten babies (I was new to raising these beautiful, soft souls...), speak to another, less anthropomorphic interpretation. These haters are the same people who think Nature is kinder and wiser and more forgiving than any human could ever be. They might benefit (?) from a trip to Montana in the Spring, where they may be able to hear the sound an elk calf makes while being eaten alive by a grizzly bear... The gift we can bring to our animals is a good life (good food, fresh water, shelter and protection), with a quick and merciful dispatch. Thanks for your contribution to that good life!


brian
4/21/2016 7:31:16 AM

Unfortunately, you are dealing with people who are probably completely disconnected from where their own food comes from. They give little to no thought as to how the food they consume arrives on their table, and most people have no concept of farming. And they most definitely don't want to hear that animals are still harmed to provide their meatless meals! Vegetarians have baffled me, as many don't want to eat animals because they don't want them killed to provide them a meal. Yet, they have no qualms killing plants to provide them food... Again...a complete disconnect from nature, and probably from reality. After taking several horticulture classes and a cellular biology class, I've come to the conclusion that even plants have an inherent intelligence in them, as they have many instinctive behaviors that help to ensure their survival. Do they deserve any less respect or consideration? I respect those who choose a vegetarian diet for the health benefits, but those who do so because they don't want living things to be harmed for food is very ironic.


lovestogarden
4/20/2016 6:26:02 PM

Enjoy your rabbit and trust me they Re easier to clean than chickens!


lovestogarden
4/20/2016 6:24:46 PM

Good for you! Hope you enjoy your rabbits and the self sufficiency they can bring you. As far as the critics on FB, just consider the source and move on ... Folks are too distant from their food these days. You can share on your blog and we will appreciate your new additions and dreams.


lovestogarden
4/20/2016 6:20:04 PM

Good for you! Hope you enjoy your rabbits and the self sufficiency they can bring you. As far as the critics on FB, just consider the source and move on ... Folks are too distant from their food these days. You can share on your blog and we will appreciate your new additions and dreams.


druidjo
4/20/2016 2:47:07 PM

I am with you on the chickens having better personalities. Unfortunately, there are folks out there that hate on anyone that eats the easter bunny. I had the same problem when my coworkers let slip at a regional event that I would be butchering rabbits when I got home. You would have thought that I was going to harvest the souls of small children. My advice is to ignore them. Easier for me because I am not on social media. Good luck.


cookieb
4/20/2016 1:24:00 PM

I'm flabbergasted at the negative comments you received on Facebook! But... that said, kudos to you for raising your own meat, much safer and better for you! Personally, I HATE Facebook and refuse to use it! CookieB


bigd
4/20/2016 9:45:26 AM

It is a shame that people become so bold in their comments like that. I too started a small farmstead and I am doing a lot of things I have never done and never thought I would do. Raising meat animals is one of them that we are starting this year. I am not afraid to tell people what we are doing and continue to stand up to these toxic people. 100 years ago everyone did this and I am more healthy now because of all this.


birdmanoftampa
4/20/2016 9:31:14 AM

Two Thumbs up to you. we have just started a homestead from the ground up here in the Ozarks. we will be raising and growing much of our own food. we post videos on our youtube channel (Ozark Living Homestead) and we get negstive comments from time to time so we are careful what we post on. Keep living and enjoying your life the way it makes you happy.


sharonl
4/20/2016 7:33:19 AM

I am very careful what I post on facebook, we raise meat chickens, turkeys, sheep (for meat) and pigs. Our society has such a disconnect with reality, we have become so emotionally and physically soft it is astounding. The people who know us know what we do. We also home school and offer a educational field trip within our group to those who want to know more about homesteading and recently had about 60 people up here to learn about homestead farming. But as far as trying to help and educate those in general I am cautious from the stories of rabbit farmers and now a homesteader who posted pictures of his meat cow on facebook is facing a virtual petition to not slaughter the cow from people they don't even know. What I have learned is to be very careful who I talk to until I know them. It can be very hard, after 10 years of this lifestyle I am very passionate and proud or what we do. The old saying goes, "you can lead a person to knowledge but you can't make them think."


chris66
4/20/2016 7:25:11 AM

if those critics were lost in the bush for a few days without food,I'm sure they wouldn't have a problem eating these cute furry critters!


brucem
3/20/2016 9:29:40 AM

Lydia: I have been doing this for a few years and you will find that some of the most innocuous postings will ferret out the trolls. They only want to engage you in an argument or put you on the defensive. Why they conduct themselves like they do is beyond me but you need to ignore them. To reply gives them fuel to continue to attack you and your lifestyle. They have no strategy other than attacking you and they lack original thoughts and do not complement your post and only take a negative approach. It is best to not reply to them and just ignore their comments. They try to build themselves up by tearing you down. They ignore facts and make up their own. Keep up your posts because for every troll there are many of decent respectful people. Trolls are just a downside to doing blogs.


808lathedog
3/18/2016 12:31:15 PM

Although I am a Vegan, for health reasons, I see no reason for you to stop growing your own meat. In fact, given all the talk about GMO's, Steroids in the meat, and antibiotics not working any longer I think you are being very smart. Wish I could do what you are doing. I'm trying to do an urban homestead in Mililani HI. :)


jackjny
3/15/2016 1:45:13 PM

Good for you Lydia. Keep on Keep'n on! Oh, and I recommend staying off of Face Book. You know what they say about opinions? ;)