While Thanksgiving has long passed us by in Canada, I’m aware that many of my lovely American friends are celebrating over the next couple of days. The snow that blankets the ground up here is also a reminder that the winter holidays are coming up in another month as well. This means some great things. For many of you, these aforementioned holidays mean time off work, and time with your families. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any holiday also usually entails gathering around a large spread of food with the people you love.
This is what I would like to talk about. In many North American households, you may traditionally find yourselves gathered around a turkey, amongst other food items. I would like for you to consider, that in the United States of America alone, anywhere from two hundred and fifty to three hundred million turkeys are slaughtered each year. Roughly forty six million of those turkeys, are consumed on Thanksgiving alone. This is an astronomical number to me. When I found out these numbers, this floored me. Now, the overwhelming majority of these turkeys, will come from a factory farm which means many things. It means that these turkeys are injected with steroids and hormones to increase their rate of growth. This growth is so rapid, that it eventually causes the legs to break in many cases, leaving these turkeys to be trampled in a room full of other birds where none of them will ever have the space even to span their wings. If a turkey doesn’t die on the factory farm floor from suffocation, heart failure, organ failure, or starvation, it is then shipped to a slaugterhouse, where it will undergo mechanical throat slitting. But of course, we can’t ALWAYS rely on machines. In this case, surviving turkeys will be scalded to death. They will never live past a year, when a turkey’s natural lifespan can be up to a decade. Turkeys are not included in the Humane Slaughter Act, nor the Animal Welfare Act.
I am not presenting these facts to upset anyone, but rather to address the issue. Turkeys are gentle, thoughtful creatures. Female turkeys have some of the sharpest maternal instincts of any species, and will defend their young to no end. They give themselves dust baths, to keep themselves clean, just like we shower every day. They have the capacity to look out for one another, communicate, play, frolick, and dance. They have complex social relationships, and are very sentient beings. Luckily, there are many people who do recognize this and are willing to give these animals the compassion they deserve. One example of this is Farm Sanctuary. Every year, Farm Sanctuary holds a plant-based Thanksgiving dinner at their shelter locations, which acts as a celebration for the Turkeys. Below is my favourite photo from this years’, that I discovered on Facebook.
They also run a brilliant “Adopt a Turkey” campaign. Today, I actually adopted my first ever Turkey, Elizabeth, who resides on the NY farm. For a one time fee of $30, this cost will go towards providing Elizabeth with adequate food, access to medication (for example, many turkeys that are rescued from factory farms are arthritic), and allow Farm Sanctuary to continue to advocate for these lovely birds and their other companions at the shelters.
This is Elizabeth:
Wondering what else you can do to prevent these kind creatures from unnecessary suffering in the name of Thanksgiving or Christmas? How about opening up your household to a vegetarian alternative for turkey or other meat this year? There are many brilliant companies who provide some pretty solid holiday roasts. Some examples include the notorious Tofurkey, Field Roast, and Gardein Savory Stuffed Turk’y. Every year I roast a Tofurkey with a great marinade, thyme, garlic, potatoes, onions, yams, and carrots, and my whole family loves it, even the omnivores. If you are new to vegetarian alternatives, don’t be weirded out- all of these loaves are made with comprehensive ingredients such as soy bean products, grains, rice, vegetables, etc. To me, that is way less creepy than putting a poor carcass on the table. Feel free also to check out the Canadian Thanksgiving blog I posted last month if you are seeking inspiration for your meatless holiday meals. The simple gesture of eating a vegetarian alternative, thus reducing the demand for turkey, can save a life.
As we continue into the holiday season, I encourage you to extend your compassion not only to your loved ones, but also to the non-human animals who deserve our thoughts and kindness as well.