I think I should point out that this Instructable has many images showing the process of butchering a rabbit. I think that people who would find this distasteful should consider not going any further.
Before you begin this process you must prepare your area for work. You will need:
- A blade sharpener (I use a simple one)
- Several knives. At least one small knife for precision work, one heavy duty knife for cutting between joints.
- Rubber gloves (makes working on the rabbit much easier, and will prevent you from getting to messy)
- A container for the unwanted parts of the rabbit (I use an old plastic bag, reused from the shopping)
- A container for the parts of the rabbit you want. (I have recently decided that an Esky filled with cold water would be a suitable receptacle)
- A means of suspending the rabbit while you work on it. (I use two large nails that I have nailed into a pallet as hooks).
- Heavy duty scissors or garden shears.
Once the rabbit has died, I usually secure it to the hooks/nails by pushing the back legs of the rabbit onto the nails, so that they piece the skin between the Tarsis bone, and the Achilles ligament. The rabbits stomach should be towards you at this stage. I place a bucket on the ground, in line with the head, and I use the short blade to sever/cut into the skin of the rabbit’s neck. Once the skin is broken and I can reach the flesh underneath I proceed to cut the veins and the muscles around the neck as well as sever the skin around the neck. I then use the larger knife and cut the ligaments between the vertebrae to allow me to remove the head from the body. I place this into the scrap area to later be given to my dogs. I allow the blood from the rabbit to drip into the bucket, which will later be added to my garden beds.
I now take the rabbit off the hooks and turn it around so that it’s back is towards me. I insert the knife under the skin, near the rabbits tail, and I proceed to cut the skin so that the tail and genital area are left on the rabbit, while the skin on the back is now separated from this section. Once complete I grab each side of the skin and pull downwards. The skin should slide off, easily removed as the front paws and head are no longer there. The skin will now be inside out and look similar to a sleeve. I place this aside for now and continue with removing the rabbit meat.
All the meat taken from the Rabbit should be rinsed in clean, cold water. This will remove any hairs that are on the meat (I find that there are always some) and begin the process of lowering the temperature of the meat.
Currently I do not really do anything with the rest of the rabbit. Some people remove the bones and use them to cook stock for cooking. I usually add the left overs to a hot compost pile and add the nutrients to my garden. If you are unable to do these, I would recommend placing the animal leftovers in a hole and burying them or burning them in a burner.
I have located a couple of very interesting, online, points of information. The first is from a 4H site and shows the various parts of a rabbits Anatomy, which is important to know when you are about to butcher an animal.
Anatomy of a rabbit
The second source of information is a free book from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. This could be a valuable addition to any Rabbit breeder’s library.
The Rabbit - Husbandry, Health and Production