For most people, Thanksgiving evokes thoughts of mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and center stage on the plate is, of course, turkey. If you haven’t stopped to consider what that turkey went through before getting to your plate, the Farm Sanctuary wants you to think about it this year. Since 1986, the Farm Sanctuary has rescued more than 1,000 animals through it’s “Adopt a Turkey” project, which asks families to forgo the big bird at Thanksgiving dinner and instead opt for a different main course.
This year, the organization has enlisted Ellen DeGeneres to help spread the message. DeGeneres is hoping to convince people to donate $30 to the Farm Sanctuary this holiday season to cover the cost of a turkey adoption. Donors receive a certificate of adoption and a photo of their bird, and know that the animal has either been placed with a loving family or granted refuge at Farm Sanctuary.
Twenty-two turkeys currently live at the New York shelter; 17 are in the California shelter. Some came to the Sanctuary after being seized as evidence in animal cruelty cases; some were delivered by slaughterhouse workers who wanted to put a stop to the suffering. Donations are also needed to support the Farm Sanctuary’s lifesaving efforts to promote a compassionate Thanksgiving and protect all farm animals. This year, the Farm Sanctuary is also hoping to convince President Obama to allow the country’s two pardoned turkeys to seek refuge at their Watkins, N.Y., facility instead of sending them to a theme park, as is typically the case. (By the way, these turkeys do not get much of an extension of their lives after pardoning because they are artificially fattened up for Thanksgiving. Have you ever seen a turkey in the wild? You won’t likely find one that is 25 pounds.)
If you’re looking to see some live turkeys, the Farm Sanctuary is selling tickets for their “Celebration for the Turkeys,” a holiday alternative going off in Orland, CA, and Watkins Glen, NY. The highlight of the event, of course, is their unique Feeding of the Turkeys ceremony, where people treat turkeys to helpings of squash, cranberry, and pumpkin pie. “It’s a way to celebrate a more compassionate holiday by being grateful and thankful over plant food, instead of over the carcass of a bird,” Farm Sanctuary founder Gene Baur said. “No one likes cruelty to animals,” Baur said. “When people learn about what happens to turkeys on factory farms, the decision to skip the turkey in favor of compassionate, plant-based options, is an easy one to make.”
The Farm Sanctuary believes the alternative Thanksgiving is catching on. Turkey production dropped 2 percent this year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture projections. But the $3.6 billion industry was still expected to raise 242 million turkeys. Forty-six million will be slaughtered for Thanksgiving, said Farm Sanctuary spokeswoman Meredith Turner.
The Farm Sanctuary isn’t the only group promoting a meat-free Thanksgiving. Many animal rights groups are hoping to draw attention to the inhumane treatment of turkeys on factory farms during this holiday season. According to animal groups, turkeys on factory farms lead a miserable existence. Even though 98 percent of the land animals Americans eat are turkeys and chickens, these birds endure a bleak existence, one often filled with suffering due to health problems and ended by slaughter where they have virtually no protection from even the very modest requirements of the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. More than nine billion turkeys and chickens are killed in the U.S. each year.
The good news is, it’s getting easier than ever to enjoy a vegetarian feast. There’s Tofurky Roast, a savory soy-and wheat-based roast with stuffing and gravy or you can find oven-roasted, peppered, hickory-smoked, or cranberry—and stuffing—flavored Tofurky Deli Slices. Even Martha Stewart had a show on vegetarian Thanksgiving meals (marthastewart.com ).
Turkeys are known to be smart animals with personality and character. They are social, playful birds that enjoy the company of others. The ones I’ve had contact with have liked to have their feathers stroked and chirp, cluck, and gobble along to music. Animal behavior experts say turkeys are social animals. They recognize each other’s voices; they bond and show affection and emotion. The president pardons a turkey every year, maybe this year you can too.
If you decided to make a tofurkey instead of a turkey this year, congratulations! Even better, you can sponsor a turkey that lives at the Farm Sanctuary. For more information, visit adoptaturkey.org. In case you still decide to go the traditional turkey route, at least opt for a humanely raised one. For more information, visit certifiedhumane.org
Book Signing at Barnes and Noble on State Street – Saturday, November 20th, from 2-4PM
San Diego-based travel journalist Maggie Espinosa recently published a book titled: The Privileged Pooch, Luxury Travel with Your Pet In Southern California. The 206-page, full-color guide profiles unique pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, activities, and shops from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Twenty-one pages are devoted to the Santa Barbara/Ojai area. Espinosa will be in town for a book signing at the State Street Barnes & Noble on Saturday, November 20th from 2-4pm. The author is really looking forward to meeting the laid back pups of the American Riviera. For more information on The Privileged Pooch, Luxury Travel with Your Pet In Southern California, visit: travelwithmaggie.com
Adoptable Pet of the Week