For most people, Thanksgiving evokes thoughts of mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie, and center stage on the plate is, of course, the turkey. If you haven’t stopped to consider what that turkey went through before getting to your plate, the Farm Sanctuary wants you to stop and think about it this year. Since 1986, the Farm Sanctuary has rescued more than 1,000 animals through its “Adopt a Turkey” project, which asks families to forgo the big bird at Thanksgiving dinner.
For the second year in a row, the Farm Sanctuary 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. Says DeGeneres: “Did you know that every year between 250 million and 300 million turkeys are bred for slaughter in the United States? More than 46 million for Thanksgiving alone. So, this Thanksgiving, instead of eating a turkey, please join me in adopting one from Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-A-Turkey Project, and you can give a turkey something to be thankful for.”
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 farm 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 facility in Watkins, New York, 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.
The Farm Sanctuary believes the alternative Thanksgiving is catching on. Turkey production dropped 2 percent last 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 rights 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 9 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.
Turkeys are known to be smart animals with personality and character. They are social, playful birds who 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 who lives at the Farm Sanctuary. For more information, visit adoptaturkey.org.
If you choose to eat meat, I would recommend reading the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Foer, who happens to be a carnivore, spent years conducting research for his book to learn what meat really is. As Foer states in his book: “At the center of our Thanksgiving tables is an animal that never breathed fresh air or saw the sky until it was packed away for slaughter. At the end of our forks is an animal that was incapable of reproducing sexually. In our bellies is an animal with antibiotics in its belly.” So this year at Thanksgiving, think about the thousands of other available dishes that you can enjoy in place of your usual turkey.
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