Given the beautiful feel and aspect of the hamster-lined coat I talked about in my last post, I was wondering why more coats like that are not still around. When that coat was made hamsters were being slaughtered en masse due to their being an agricultural pest. This was before Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) had become familiar as a living toy, so the associated taboos would not have been in operation (all domesticated hamsters are descended from a pregnant female captured in 1930, they were first of all used as laboratory animals). Maybe hamster fur simply went out of fashion, as has happened with rabbit. I remember the almost unbelievably soft rabbit fur that lined my father's motor cycle gloves. He had worn them years previously when roaring around sinuous English lanes on his Triumph Thunderbird. This was in the days before fatherhood obliged him to cram himself into the driving seat of a Ford Prefect, his gloves condemned to the ignominy of the sock drawer.
But the rabbits – Rabbit fur may be out of fashion but rabbit farms still exist, certainly here in France where it's mainly older people who eat rabbit meat. I read in an English newspaper that people who keep cats don't mind feeding them cat-food made from chicken or lamb or cow, but baulk at rabbit – they find the last option immoral. I suppose it's because rabbits are kept as pets. It would be a bit like feeding one's cat to one's dog, or indeed, eating one's dog, an exercise which would assuage hunger but increase loneliness – and which could explain Fido's slavering eagerness to be our best friend.
Of course when times are hard everything gets eaten. I read that during World War II flayed cat torsos could be found hanging in London butchers' shops where they were euphemistically referred to as “Roof Rabbit” (the German equivalent being Dachhase - 'roof-hare'), the article stated that only an expert could differentiate between a skinned, decapitated and dismembered cat and a skinned, decapitated and dismembered rabbit – apparently the shoulder blades give the game away.
Christian Gonzenbach has an exhibition at the moment that eloquently illustrates some of the absurdities inherent in our relationship with, among other animals, the rabbit. It can be seen in Roubaix, near Lille, in the north of France, and is called “ZOOnomia, de la nature humaine”.
Gonzenbach made this 5 metre high rabbit from 650 rabbit skins discarded by a rabbit farm;