Compassionate Thanksgiving

This year, for Thanksgiving, I decided to forego the turkey in an effort to eat more mindfully and compassionately.  I know – Thanksgiving with no turkey!?  That’s outrageous!  It’s unthinkable!  It’s totally anti-American!

I chose to have a turkey-less Thanksgiving because of the cruel treatment of turkeys as they are raised and “harvested” specifically for Thanksgiving.  You see, turkeys raised on factory farms do not lead happy lives before they arrive at your table, rather, they lead very unhappy, cramped, and stressful lives before they become your dinner.  According to the Farm Sanctuary, one factory may house 10,000 birds, and a space as small as an averaged sized kitchen may house between 250-500 birds, whereas if those turkeys were kept as pets, an owner would be charged with animal cruelty if they surpassed 12-15 animals.   Living in such close quarters results in various health problems due to uncleanliness, the space each turkey has to call it’s own quickly cramping as the birds grow unnaturally large in an unnaturally short time, and emotional stress.  These animals also never exercise, and are actually unable to fly because they have been bred to have unnaturally large breasts.  Many have problems with their legs because of their unnatural growth rate.

I know that if I were forced to live in such close quarters with any one person all of the time, I would get cranky, but to have to live with 250 people in my house, I would be a bear within a very short period of time.  Turkeys also get cranky by being kept in close quarters together and in order to prevent them from wounding each other when fighting, they are routinely de-beaked  – with no anesthesia.  Unfortunately, a beak is not lacking in nerve endings like your fingernails or hair; I can’t even imagine how painful the procedure must feel.  When I made a trip to the Farm Sanctuary in October, the kids and I met some rescued, de-beaked turkeys; we got to feed them out of our hands, and it was sad because they will forever have trouble eating because they only have half a top beak.

Further more, I admit that I believe that just as nutrients flow through you from your food, so does energy.  It sounds new age-y, but I guess in the case of factory raised meat, if that animal did nothing but suffer it’s whole life before you eat it, do you not think that you are also ingesting some of that suffering?  How can we find peace when we are eating torture?  Just some food for thought.

If I had had a locally raised, free-ranging turkey that I knew was not raised in a room of 500, which is actually something that is possible to find where I live, or had a partner that were a hunter, then I would have partaken of the Thanksgiving turkey, but as my father purchased a $50 (yes – $50!!!) turkey from the local grocery store that was without a doubt factory farm raised, I said “No Thanks” this year.  But, so that you don’t find me too anti-American, I did focus the meal that I made myself around a locally grown vegetable: the pumpkin.  I found a recipe for pumpkin seed encrusted tofu and that was what I had as my main dish.  Tofu for Thanksgiving?!  That’s so cliché for a vegetarian!  Well, in my defense…I do love tofu…but as I said, I focused on an autumn vegetable, and the recipe I found just happened to have tofu in it as well.  Next year, I may choose something else.   It was delicious!


Pumpkin seed encrusted tofu with cranberry relish, recipe from ‘Vegan with a Vengeance’ by Isa Chandra Moskowitz


As Thanksgiving is winding down, I don’t regret my decision to forego the turkey this year in the name of compassion.  I do regret not having gotten this post up sooner though.

As a side thought, I think that my entire main course (that which I substituted for turkey) may have cost about $10 to make, and could have fed three people with some sides.  Not bad compared to a $50 turkey.

Share your thoughts:  How did you include compassion at your Thanksgiving meal this year?

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