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Ostara Rabbit and Baby Vegetables

This post was written by Elysia
on January 13, 2011 | Comments (64)

2011 Witches' DatebookLast week, everyone pulled out their 2011 Witches’ Datebook and started thumbing through it. In the process, some of you have noticed that Llewellyn included a recipe for “Ostara Rabbit and Baby Vegetables” by Elizabeth Barrette in March. We’ve gotten a few letters from people disgusted by this inclusion, so obviously this has pushed some buttons. We certainly didn’t mean to upset anyone with this recipe; that was not our intention. We apologize to those of you who took this as a personal affront. However, all Pagans have very different values when it comes to meat consumption, and we feel we can’t dictate what everyone should or should not avoid eating. Our role as a publisher is not to issue moral decrees, but to share all types of information. Like everything else in Paganism, it’s up to you to choose your own path from the varied possibilities.

In her defense, Elizabeth Barrette is hardly the first one to propose eating rabbit on Ostara, for the same reason that egg dishes are popular then – they take the symbol of the season and incorporate it into the festivities. Case in point, this quote from Edain McCoy’s book, Ostara: “A German woman who has no conscious knowledge that the hare was an animal sacred to the spring goddess of her ancestors still feels compelled to make a rabbit stew for her family’s equinox dinner, a tradition practiced by her grandmother.” (p. xii) Elizabeth herself tells me, “I researched traditional foods for the seasons/holidays, and that was one of them …. If people don’t like rabbit, they can substitute chicken or skip that recipe.”

I feel this actually provides a perfect opportunity to open a discussion with you, our readers. Do you eat rabbit or other game? Would you? Isn’t eating a wild creature, by hunting or trapping (which is quite common in the Midwest where Llewellyn is based) or raising and slaughtering it yourself closer to nature and the reality of that animal’s sacrifice than buying a plastic-wrapped irradiated filet of some animal in a grocery store? Wouldn’t it be better to eat a bunny, no matter how cute and loveable, than to eat a Big Mac? Many restaurants and consumers are now making the case for just that.

A cute rabbit

Photo by aussiegall

Obviously some people will say no way; especially those who rescue rabbits and other small critters, or keep them as pets. To them, the thought of eating a rabbit is akin to eating a dog or a cat, as rabbits are America’s 3rd most popular pet. They share our homes and should never be placed on a dinner plate. But why? Is it the cuteness factor? (They are pretty darn cute.)  The fact that you know they’re intelligent? All animals that we currently eat are intelligent (to varying degrees, obviously) and sentient. I know many non-farmers back in Europe where I used to live who keep chickens and goats in their own backyards, care for them and live with them, and still eat them. This is what our Pagan ancestors used to do, after all.

But we now live in a more enlightened age. We have the freedom of a wide range of options open to us. Surely I would never eat a bunny if I could help it. But then again, I don’t eat pork, beef, chicken, turkey or goose either (in case you haven’t noticed, there is a goose recipe in the 2011 datebook as well). I am a vegetarian only partly based on Pagan principles – harm none, value and respect other forms of life – but that only goes so far, since I am still willing to eat plants which have their own devas, their own spiritual vibration and evolution, after all. I’m really vegetarian because of environmentalism; producing a pound of meat consumes many times more natural resources, and causes much more pollution and deforestation, than producing a pound of vegetables or grains. So from that point of view – putting a higher value on living lightly on the land– I would actually prefer people to trap, hunt or raise bunnies and eat them once in a while than to build mega-chicken factories where millions of birds live foul and miserable existences just so someone can buy a cheap chicken sandwich whenever they feel like it.

Meat used to be a valuable commodity, not something you’d eat every day. Industrialized society has found a way to industrialize and cheapen animals by abusing them rather than attempting to follow a more sustainable, humble diet. In my own personal opinion, I feel that most people could safely cut back their consumption of meat (although obviously people’s individual nutritional needs will differ) and when eating meat, could attempt to buy either USDA organic meats or those sold by local, humane producers.

All consumption of meat has a cost – an environmental cost, an emotional cost, a spiritual cost. For some people, the idea of eating a sacred rabbit costs them far too dearly and they will never do it. At the same time many Pagans accept the fact that humankind have been omnivores for millennia, and don’t have moral qualms about it. And you know what? Both positions are fine, because Pagans are simply not a homogenous group with strict religious taboos or scriptures.

Please join the conversation. What do you think? Are you upset that Llewellyn included a recipe for rabbit? Does Paganism inform your dietary choices? Are you interested in seeing the occasional game recipe in our annuals and books, or does it always turn you off? Please chime in, we really value your opinion, and this is a big one.

Reader Comments

Written By Brittany
on January 18th, 2011 @ 7:15 pm

What I am hearing is that the majority of people are not offended by the recipe. If they don’t like it, they simply turn the page. I personally am not offended by this recipe. I like meat. I eat meat. I happen to think bacon is its own food group! 😀 I have never encountered rabbit on a plate, so I’m not quite sure if I would eat it.
I understand where the vegetarians and the vegans are coming from. I was vegetarian for a while until I became iron-deficient anemic. So I get it, I do; I just don’t understand why there is such a big fuss.
I’m allergic to bananas. Should I have written in to Llewellyn and told them the Banana Trifle recipe in 2004 offended me? Should I have flipped out over the Celebration Slush in 2008 because it called for a banana?
I wasn’t on the site much last year, but in 2010 there’s a recipe for “Hunter’s Hare” which calls for rabbit, yet says one may substitute chicken. Did someone complain then? If so, we have backtracked.
Elysia (our original poster) was correct when she said “Our [Llewellyn’s] role as a publisher is not to issue moral decrees, but to share all types of information.”
Everyone is entitled to their own choices. We as Pagans, who get so much flak just for being Pagan, should not fight a futile battle amongst ourselves. Besides, if all witches were the same, we’d just be a cliché; and isn’t that one thing we’ve been fighting against?
Remember, it takes all types of people to make up the God’s and Goddess’s beautiful world!

Written By Kaitie
on January 19th, 2011 @ 9:26 pm

I am personally glad that a game recipe was used. I am a pagan, have been my whole life, and I have no moral issue eating animals. I respect animals, I try to eat organic or local meat and remember to be thankful that the animal gave it’s life so that my body could be nourished. I tried avoiding meat and animal byproducts for a while and it actually made me quite ill as I discovered I have a soy allergy and most meat substitutes are soy. Health reasons aside, we are all different. Different lifestyles, different dietary needs, different views. It’s good that opposite views are being expressed and shared. It helps us grow and experience new things but also makes it fair to everyone. If every recipe was vegetarian or every recipe contained meat it would create a very single minded point of reference. Since so many of us use Llewellyn publications as just that, reference, they would be doing their readers a disservice if they allowed only one group to be heard.

Written By Amanda
on January 26th, 2011 @ 8:02 pm

I was not really offended to see this recipe in the datebook. I will admit I did crinkle my nose a bit at the idea of eating rabbit, but I know that it is a rather common food for some people. I personally couldn’t hunt or prepare any wild game [or raised animals] for myself simply because I don’t like killing things, and preparing it myself would bring about the notion of eating that creature’s death. I’m not really sure how much sense that makes to other people, but it’s just wierd for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love meat. I have a condition called Syncopy (like diabetes, but protein, not sugar), so I make a point to eat meat with nearly every meal to keep my protein levels up. I’m just not a fan of eating any meat that still looks like an animal.
While I agree that there should be more things included for vegans and vegetarians, I don’t see why we should have to omit meat recipes all together, no matter what type of meat it calls for. Especially if it is a traditional dish for the holiday.

Written By Violet
on January 27th, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

I’m relieved that I didn’t order this book! As a vegetarian of 20 years, I try to ignore when others eat meat, but having had pet bunnies for the past 18 years, this certainly makes me sick to my pagan stomach! Rabbits are the 3rd most popular housepet in the US, behind cats & dogs. You die-hard meateaters out there – would you eat cat or dog meat? No? Why not? Because they’re PETS? Scuse me, then you are hypocrites because rabbits are pets too. I’d like to add that I’m also anti-hunting, mainly because of the violence involved. I’m not criticizing you folks for eating meat, but you could get yours at the grocery store. (No, I don’t condone factory farming either, but I don’t see it ever becoming extinct.)

Written By Dani
on January 29th, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

As a vegetarian for 19 years now (for moral/spiritual reasons), I’d prefer not to see recipes containing animals. (This is where my mind goes off in a dozen different directions, so I’ll try not to digress too much) First, my spirituality is something I look to to escape the cruelty and suffering of the world in which we live. To me, our one moral yardstick (“An it harm none, do as ye will”) necessitates the avoidance of inflicting pain and suffering on any creature capable of experiencing them. That said, we live in shades of gray, not black-and-white, and factory farming is BY FAR the worst way to obtain animal flesh to consume. Raising animals as humanely as possible, or hunting them and killing them as quickly and humanely as possible, are at least preferable to buying meat from the store. Take any animal on the planet, and at the global level, you can find someone somewhere who eats that animal. Pets to one person are food to another, no exceptions. So if you eat any animal, you can’t condemn someone else for eating an animal that you “like better.” And if you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian (eat dairy & eggs), you should research the flipside of both the dairy and egg industries. You’ll find that they are wholly responsible for the extreme abuse and consumption of veal calves and for many millions of baby chicks being LITERALLY thrown in the trash, either alive or killed by some atrocious and inhumane manner. So, unfortunately, even non-vegan vegetarians are hypocritical to wag their finger at meat eaters.

Written By Kara
on January 31st, 2011 @ 6:44 pm

I think a healthy conversation is always a good thing. Thank you for taking the time to provide a forum of sorts. There are MANY differing opinions about food choices and we will all NEVER agree. I believe it is an extremely individual and personal decision and no one else can dictate how anyone should eat! I personally would rather never eat meat, but my body demands an omnivorous diet. Therefore, I eat mindfully and am grateful to the creative energy of the Universe for providing so many options for me. I would be out of luck living in some other parts of the world!

Written By Snowy
on February 5th, 2011 @ 9:18 am

Rabbits are prey. This isn’t a cultural or philosophical opinion, it’s the way of the wild. Rabbits (and their cousins, hares) are prey to many creatures – just about any carnivore of appropriate size – and the dance of predator and prey is a vital, essential, integral part of the cycles of Nature. Prey should be respected, but that doesn’t mean denying that they are prey. Dogs and cats are not comparable in this regard to rabbits, not because they are pets in one country or another, but because they are (derived from) predator species rather than prey species.

Pagan once meant ‘country dweller’, but quite a few modern ‘neo-Pagans’ seem to have forgotten their roots. Buying meat at the supermarket is nothing more than paying someone else to kill and butcher your prey for you… and you can bet the average meat factory employee isn’t going to offer tobacco and a prayer for the livestock.

Written By MV
on March 21st, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

Some of the best friends I’ve EVER had have been bunnies. I’m actually a big supporter of a regional rabbit rescue organization here in New England (and have adopted several “best friends” into my home over the years). I would NEVER eat them, and was just horrified to see a recipe like this included in a Llewellyn datebook. 🙁

I wouldn’t look down on someone who ate whatever they had to in order to survive, and I do respect other people’s rights to do what they need to do… the circle of life and all! But I don’t want to see recipes about how to cook bunnies… it’s very upsetting, like serving up the family dog or hamster or kitty or canary.

Bunnies made out of chocolate, however… that’s a whole other story.

Written By Madeline Day
on March 24th, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

People like myself and some of the other folks commenting are repelled at the inclusion of this recipe in your book because for us, rabbits are a beloved animal companion. I would never purchase a book containing a rabbit recipe. To see a rabbit recipe is no different from seeing one for a cat or dog.

Rabbits are incredibly loving and affectionate towards their humans who care for them. When happy, they make a contented clicking noise, parallel to a cat’s purr. They are highly intelligent, and protective of their family members. One of my rabbits predicted an earthquake a few years ago. He ran to my husband and me, thumping and growling for no appearent reason. A few minutes later, we felt the tremors of a small earthquake.

All of my rabbits were rescues, because many people look at them as an object to be thrown out when no longer useful or entertaining. (Many adolescent rabbits are abandoned for this reason, because some go through a brief, tempermental “teenage” phase where they may be less inclined to play and react more moodily toward humans.)

My rabbits have been a huge part of my family and given us so much love and joy. I hope Llewellyn will take this perspective into consideration when producing your next books.

Written By Doug
on April 10th, 2011 @ 8:37 pm

After reading through all of the previous 59 comments in their entirety, it seems that all of the objections to the inclusion of the rabbit recipe can be summed up as follows: “I am offended, therefore *you* shouldn’t do it.” No one has the right, neither implied nor implicit, to never be offended. If something offends you, move on and get over it — don’t demand that anyone else should be expected to do without something simply because you find it distasteful, for whatever reason that may be. Had this book been titled “The Vegan Datebook”, there’d be valid grounds for objecting to the recipe’s inclusion. As it is, it seems (from the comments above) to have served a far larger portion of the audience than it offended.

Vegetarian/vegan vs. carnivore is likely to remain one of several ‘hot buttons’ sure to fire up heated debate within the pagan community, along with skyclad vs. robed vs. streetclothed rituals, monogamy vs. polyamory, the use of tobacco (or even psychotropic materials) in pursuit of higher consciousness, or whether the use of sex magic or blood magic is ever appropriate. It is my sincere hope that Lewellyn will continue to publish materials (recipes included) that reflect and respect the full diversity of their readership and the pagan community, and that most of that readership will be sufficiently mature to simply bypass any portion(s) of their publishing efforts that are personally offensive.

Written By Jessie Mittelstadt
on November 4th, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

This seems so silly. People who are part of something that has been looked down upon for hundreds of years, people who wanted their beliefs to be allowed and not judged are now judging people within their own faiths. We all look for equality and once it’s pretty much in grasp we turn on each other and judge over rediculious things. We are all allowed our own beliefs and we are all allowed NOT to read things that bother us. We do NOT force ourselves on others. We do NOT force others to conform as we are not forced to conform.

Written By Leandra
on April 1st, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

Just my two cents…. Im not a vegetarian, and I have eaten rabbit in the past (I think I remember my father hunting them when I was a child). To me, I dont think that it bothers me that the rabbit recipe was in the book because of the cuteness factor of the bunny – or because of the vegetarian/meat-eater debate… the only thing that bothers me is that the rabbit is sacred to the Goddess moreso at Ostara than any other time, and to me — again, just my opinion here – its a bit rude and uncaring to call ourselves Goddess worshippers and then roast her sacred animal on the holiday in which its revered. Itd be like roasting up reindeer at xmas… ya know?

But even with that being my feeling… I can easily turn the page in the book and ignore the recipe if I dont like it. OR if it bothers me profoundly I … get ready to catch yourself … can always rip the page out… there all gone, problem solved. =)

Life’s too short to fight amongst ourselves folks – we’re all on this road together… allow and celebrate diversity instead of mandating that all must think exactly like you do.

Written By Astrid.Asimov
on March 12th, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

Is it possible that the whole Artemis/Diana huntress persona is a fake?
Is it possible that it is a lame apology for taking the easy way out, for taking what belongs to another?

Sorry, I see no spiritual value in slaughtering and dismembering and consuming beings who do not want to be so abused.
Ancestors, shamcestors!
Would you kill and eat a unicorn, a centaur, a mermaid, a sylph, a faerie?

Written By Laura
on April 17th, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

I believe we have dominion over all the birds, fowl and fish. That being said, we have a responsibility to treat them with respect. Hunting and fishing in the wild is much better than grocery store mass eating, but those skills are falling by the wayside. So, solution? Waste as little as possible and do eat lesser liked meats like venison and rabbit. And if you do hunt, make use of the whole animal-hunting just for sport is down right despicable.

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