I love any chance to connect with loved ones and share a meal. Yet, Thanksgiving can simultaneously be a sad time for many people. For one, the history of Thanksgiving is wrought with violence and bloodshed… a topic for another post in and of itself. Thanksgiving gains another layer of sadness because dinners most often revolve around a turkey, and that magical savory mixture shoved up its butt. In essence, we celebrate genocide with more killing.
I know what some people are thinking (including myself, only a few years ago): But what if Larry came from a happy farm? Isn’t that just the food chain? Unfortunately, Larry probably didn’t have a name. He was likely one of the vast majority (98%) of farm animals raised in a factory farm.
But even if Larry did come from a happy farm, is there a compassionate way to kill an animal that doesn’t want to die? After all, the word compassion means: "concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” (Stick around for ideas on how to compassionately celebrate Thanksgiving down below).
At the same time, I do not see this as an all or nothing issue. The most compassionate option is to opt out of eating an animal, but if you are to get a turkey, supporting a local, more ethical farmer is surely the better call.
I know... turkeys aren’t exactly the prototype of cute. They have snoods (the strange dangly red bits), and little beady eyes. But don’t be deceived; they are a remarkably smart and social species. Each has their own distinct personality–much like our beloved cats and dogs. You can even find turkeys on sanctuaries cozying up for pets. Fun fact: Benjamin Franklin lobbied for the wild turkey to be America’s national bird, calling them “a bird of courage.”
Yet, these beings are treated with tremendous cruelty.
Disclaimer: in this post, I candidly share what happens in the turkey industry. I see veganism as a powerful tool to effect positive change, not a marker of moral character. Judging individual people; not okay. Judging a food system that willingly hides common industry practices from people; necessary. In a system of supply and demand, our purchases have tremendous power. Now let's get back to the scheduled programming...
Turkeys are slaughtered when they’re children (at 16-24 weeks of age), while the domesticated turkey typically lives to 10 years.
Before being slaughtered, turkeys live in cramped cages stacked on top of one another. Labels such as “cage free” and “free range” result in no more humane treatment (i.e. turkeys have the same amount of space, just without the cage).
At birth, turkeys are debeaked and detoed without painkillers. This would be equivalent to having a fingertip cut off, without painkillers.
Turkeys are rife with disease, blistered breasts, and ammonia-burned eyes. Seventy-five to one hundred percent of them still contain disease when they reach the slaughterhouse, even after being pumped full of antibiotics.
Selective breeding has resulted in turkeys growing so quickly that their organs and bones can’t keep up–turkeys die prematurely under their own weight.
To be slaughtered, turkeys are hung upside down by their feat, run through an electrified water bath, or stunned by an electrified stunner, while being fully conscious.
There is no law in the U.S.A to regulate the slaughtering of turkeys.
In the U.S., an estimated 46 million turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving alone.
Phew, that was a lot of information to ‘gobble’ up. Fortunately, there are many more compassionate ways for us to celebrate Thanksgiving, and there are many organizations committed to rescuing turkeys so that they can live happy lives on sanctuaries.
Celebrating Thanksgiving Compassionately
Remember the true history of Thanksgiving
Adopt a turkey. You can find your own local sanctuary to donate to and visit!
Spend time with loved ones with a delicious plant-based meal. (I’m making this veggie potpie!)
Donate to a local food shelter.
Resources to Learn More:
I appreciate you having the ‘pluck’ to stick with me. I wish you a compassionate and delicious Thanksgiving with loved ones. I know I will be eating my weight in stuffing cooked in a good ‘ol pan. And hopefully there will be enough leftover for stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiches... my personal favorite.
Peace and plants,