My home town of Ulverstone, on Tasmania’s north-west coast, was always known for its potatoes. However, in the late 1940s there was another contender for the town’s most valuable export product….. CANNED RABBITS!
But before I continue with that I must share an earlier venture with rabbits in tins
In 1912 a humorous piece appeared on the proposed canning of rabbits at Berrima Gaol, in the NSW Southern Highlands.
It was a wonderful idea, the writer declared. He suggested that many of the inmates were experts in skinning ‘mugs’, and would soon learn how to skin rabbits. As for the containers… ‘A good gang of coiners [counterfeiters], if captured and given long sentences, would know how to make and solder the tins, and could teach that industry to those who had not learned it outside.’
AVERSION TO CANNED RABBIT …..AN INDELIBLE TAINT
The establishment of rabbit-tinning as the main operation in gaol could be made to afford a sure means of identification of timed-expired criminals. The prisoners would of course feed on the rabbits they had tinned. Rabbit is a wholesome and nourishing food, but anyone who has it all day and every day will grow tired of it, almost to the point of actual nausea, like drunkards who are given a surfeit of alcohol …So, when the police wanted to know whether any person was a convicted crook or not, they would try him with tinned rabbit. If he turned up his nose and made faces suggestive of sickness, they would know him as a man who had lived for some time in gaol. (Dubbo Dispatch 29 November 1912.)
In Ulverstone, forty five years later, canned rabbits were sent off to Britain to help with the post WWII food shortage. This could have been viewed as revenge for the Brits introducing the wretched creatures to Australia in the first place. 😎🐇 My farmer father and his close neighbours could have supplied the factory by themselves.
Mind you, the process involved in the Ulverstone factory hardly inspired confidence in the final product.
The selected carcasses are placed in a cement lined brine tank, after which they are again inspected. They are dissected and much of the bone removed. The meat then passes through a cold water spay and is packed in laquer-lined tins by girls wearing approved, medical rubber gloves. The cans are sealed and tested, after which they pass into a large pressure cooker, which cooks for two hours at 240 degrees. Before being accepted as fit for export the tins are set aside for three weeks and then inspected again.
Every tin will bear a map of Tasmania with the wording “Fancy Tasmanian Rabbit”. (Advocate, March 10, 1947)
I couldn’t resist having a bit of fun with those final three words; a variation on EATS SHOOTS AND LEAVES.
FANCY TINNED RABBIT
FANCY TINNED RABBIT?
FANCY – TINNED RABBIT!
Can you spot the little map of Tassie on the crates?
The unfortunate patrons of The Blue Anchor Hotel in London’s South Croydon were served up canned Australian rabbit. Whether landlady Peggy Palmer ate it herself is unknown, but to her credit she did sample it before serving. On one occasion she found it far ‘tastier’ than she could have imagined. Her teeth grated on what she first thought was a piece of glass, but turned out to be a perfectly cut sapphire, valued at £50. (The News, Adelaide, September 25, 1948).
Wow, that sapphire could have belonged to a factory worker from Ulverstone! Well, perhaps not. Anyone who owned a gem like that in 1948 would hardly need to spend all day stuffing rabbits into tins.
Now I hate to end on a negative note, but in January 1950 this headline appeared;
WE’RE IMPORTING TINNED RABBITS FROM FROM NEW ZEALAND NOW!!
Most extraordinary piece of news released recently was that New Zealand tinned rabbit was being sold in Sydney.
With an estimated rabbit population of 200,000,000 in Australia (and hundred of thousands being slaughtered weekly), this is a distinct insult to Aussie bunnies. The story of taking coal to Newcastle is now outdated. (Yass Tribune January 15 1950)
Oh dear me, somehow this hurts my old heart more than the Pavlova issue! 😡
Howver, it wasn’t competition from the Kiwis that spelled trouble for the processing of rabbits at Ulverstone. In 1952 there had been complaints about pollution from the factory entering the Leven river. By the following year the myxomatosis virus had been introduced, and that was the end of fancy canned rabbits. Henceforth the factory concentrated on vegetables such as beans and peas.
ANYONE WHO MIGHT LIKE TO VISIT ULVERSTONE, CLICK HERE.