This Thanksgiving, please think about the turkeys
”I am officially a vegan now. Feels wonderful. People feel so strong about meat and milk, I wish they felt this strong about peace.”
~Arian Foster, two-time Pro Bowler, NFL Star
Canadian Thanksgiving is coming up next weekend and once again vegans, vegetarians and the ethically-minded alike await with dread the sad reality of what that means for the millions of turkeys that are slaughtered in the name of “giving thanks”. For tradition. We also cringe under the prospect of having to participate silently in these ironic dinners, filled with such love and warmth, surrounded by good friends and dear family, but which showcase torture and misery as a centrepiece for the celebration. I find Thanksgiving to be one of the most unnecessary evils and supporters of an inherently cruel industry. What Thanksgiving should be about is peace and love for ourselves and for others–and this should evidently extend to all of the sentient beings who share a life with us on Earth. If there is one day which you should stop for a second and just consider the implications of your actions, it’s Thanksgiving. If people were to simply take the time to reflect on the implications of their actions and not allow themselves to be happily ignorant or to tolerate their own ethical dissonance, having turkey on Thanksgiving would not even be a consideration. Let us not give thanks for our fortunate lives at the expense of others; that is certainly not the purpose of the holiday.
You may wonder what the big deal about having turkey on Thanksgiving is anyhow, aside from the standard arguments against eating meat. Well, we can start with the most obvious culprit of abuse and deception: factory farming. Turkeys on factory farms live only 5 or 6 months–compared to up to 10 years in the wild–at which point they are killed for meat. Their unnaturally short lives are as miserable as a life could possibly be. To name a few reasons why:
- Thousands of turkeys are packed into dark sheds with no more than 3.5 ft2 per bird;
- They are generally genetically bred to get big quick, which means that often these unnaturally large birds cannot support their own weight and are crippled because of it;
- Without pain relievers, turkeys have portions of their upper beaks and toes cut off with hot blades so that they do not peck and scratch each other (which would only be expected in such cramped quarters). The males may get the flap of skin (snood) from the beak to the chest also cut off without anaesthetic. These practices are essentially another form of torture the bird must experience during its pathetic life;
- When they are finally transported for slaughter, many birds die on the journey from dehydration, weakness, etc. as the journey to slaughter is one without food, water or light. Those who survive the journey may have broken bones;
- Birds are killed by having their throats slit as they hang upside down. There is an electric stunning tank which is supposed to stun the birds prior to receiving the knife at their necks, but many birds manage to divert this step and are completely conscious when they are slaughtered;
- Some birds even survive the throat-slitting station as occasionally the knife misses the throat and the bird is plunged into a tank of boiling water alive (for feather removal).
Free range turkeys are no better off, especially since “free range” doesn’t mean shit to birds that will experience the same journey to the abattoir and the same horrific, frightening treatment their during their final day of life. In many cases, the short lives of free range birds are just as suffocating, painful and miserable as their factory farm counterparts as they too suffer many of the same practices outlined above. “Free range” practices do not require much more than just “access to the outdoors” which means virtually nothing. For more info on why free-range and organic does not equate to ethically sound–aside from the obvious ethical anomaly of killing the animals for a guilty pleasure regardless of how you label them beforehand–please read this article.
So make this Thanksgiving for the birds. Give thanks for serenity, peace, non-violence and justice. Do not make a dead, previously tortured animal your incongruous symbol of these beautiful ideals.
And stop trying desperately to remain ignorant of the facts! Ignorance is not absolution. Accept no longer the status quo. Read further, dig deeper and find alternative ways to celebrate this holiday without the need for destruction and abuse of others. How you may ask? I recommend starting by reading this blog post (the second portion offers ideas on how to make your Thanksgiving cruelty-free with vegan turkey alternatives for your dinner). You may also want to buy a “faux turkey” and use a delicious vegan gravy for your mashed potatoes! Check out some brands and recipes here. Finally, you can make your own vegan faux turkey. I’m currently working on getting up a recipe here, so stay tuned!
Before I close, I wanted to make one last comment that deserves mention. Many people agree that having turkey at Thanksgiving is hypocritical and cruel, but they choose to set aside their moral beliefs in order not to offend their guests, who may not be of the same inclination. This type of compromise to one’s moral beliefs is common during traditional holiday seasons, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, because tradition can be so important to friends and family, and there is some unspoken rule that traditions that involve turkey (or more generally meat) should be maintained, lest you offend others. I’m going to try to make this plain and simple. I do not like offending others either. However, I will not participate in a cruel industry and indirectly murder another being so that I do not “offend others” or so that I keep others happy at the dinner table, or so that they don’t have to think about veganism or animal cruelty too much. It’s the same reason why I wouldn’t–indirectly or directly–do other evil things, such as murder or rape or torture, to appease anyone else. That just does not make sense. And it should not make sense to you.
So please, if you are considering going meatless for Thanksgiving and not supporting cruelty, don’t let fear of others shake your resolve. Remember, they are guests in your home. You are not forcing your beliefs on anyone; they are simply respecting yours. In essence, you are simply living in line with your morals and your friends should celebrate and give thanks to that.
Still not convinced? Watch this video.