Dear Parliament: Bunnies Belong in My Mouth

Dear Parliament: Bunnies Belong in My Mouth

Braised rabbit leg on barley risotto.

SourceNiklas Thiemann/Getty

Why you should care

Because what else that you love could you turn into dinner? So many possibilities.

At home, being Italian, I’ve always eaten rabbit. But when I was a kid, this habit would get me into trouble. When I told my American and British buddies that the evening before my mom had cooked us one of the most gourmet Italian recipes — coniglio alla cacciatora, rabbit made “the huntsman way,” with wine, tomato sauce and chili pepper — my friends would stare, flabbergasted: “Shame on you! You’re a bunny killer!”

I understood why when they invited me over for a pajama party once. Their little rabbit, instead of lying in a frying pan, scuttled freely across the floor and inside our sleeping bags at night. It was their pet, just like Jezz was my beloved rottweiler. So I started to feel a bit guilty, but that never stopped me from indulging in culinary rabbit treats. Plus, I felt a twinge of disgust at holding a rabbit in my arms and stroking it instead of eating it. I guess that’s just a matter of cultural (or culinary?) clash.

In Italy, rabbit is as much a part of meals as snails are in France, frog legs in Indonesia and cheese in Wisconsin. It’s healthy, vitamin-rich and soooo tasty. Rabbit has a sweet, delicate taste and it’s tender when you chew it. It almost melts in your mouth. It’s like sexed-up chicken meat! Even better is hare that runs freely and has a more succulent and expensive meat. By the way, in some northern areas, we also eat little birds and cats. I know, we’re crazy eaters. Italy’s the world’s second-top rabbit breeder and exporter after China (for food, of course).

Putting a ban on rabbit slaughter would mean destroying chunks of food tradition.

Very few Italians prefer to have a bunny as a pet than a savory meal. But things are changing. Now, to spoil our taste buds’ delight, here comes the law, taking us into the 21st century and saying that rabbits should be protected. That they’re breathing beings and not a dead but mouth-watering meat delicacy. A pro-animal protection lobby has launched a crusade for the legal recognition and defense of rabbits as any other domestic pet. Bunnies should have the same rights as kitty cats and doggies. The activists’ slogan is “If it’s alive, it’s much more tender,” which plays on the foodie pun.

A petition is being signed to force parliament to pass a decree. Actors, ministers, VIPs and politicians are lining up to defend the bunnies’ place in society. Honestly, I’m not going to sign it: It would be a hypocrisy. I prefer to keep it as it is and leave the bunnies in kitchens and on tables.

Putting a ban on rabbit slaughter would mean destroying chunks of food tradition. Today, traveling across the boot of Italy, you can try different, yummy bunny recipes: flat pappardelle or homemade spaghetti with bunny ragù sauce, olives and spicy almonds; bunny legs with beer; boneless rabbit stuffed with Parmesan, sausages and lemon; and bunny breasts with pine nuts and capers. The island of Ischia, a popular thermal-baths destination, has branded its own version — coniglio all’Ischitana — with bits of rabbit mixed with vinegar and cherry tomatoes.

Italians have a saying: “Wherever you go, you’ll find your perfect bunny dish.” That is, if you’re a killer.

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