With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you’re most likely hard at work planning a gathering of family and friends and you’re trying to decide what dishes to serve on your holiday menu. If you, like millions of other Americans, are considering a turkey as the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving table, why not take a moment to pause and consider where your family’s meal will be coming from.
Why Should Turkey Be Off The Menu This Thanksgiving?
First and foremost, Thanksgiving is the cause of endless suffering for turkeys. 300 million turkeys are raised and killed in the U.S. for their meat every year, with 67 million of these smart, inquisitive birds being slaughtered during the holiday season alone. Even before the turkeys are killed, the conditions they are raised in are usually horrifying. A recent undercover investigation in Minnesota revealed 25,000 female turkeys locked in five sheds in what the reporters described as “cruel and filthy conditions.” Sadly, environments like these are very common since federal law does not prohibit birds raised for food from being kept in inhumane conditions. Due to their cramped living quarters, the birds have their beaks burned off without anesthesia and often sustain severe injuries and infections due to the packed and squalid conditions.
Huge turkey farms such as Butterball have, as recently as 2012, been caught essentially torturing birds while undercover investigators looked on. The reporters saw workers “kicking and stomping on the birds, dragging them by their fragile wings and necks, and maliciously throwing turkeys.” In addition to mistreatment from workers, many of the birds were “suffering from serious untreated illnesses and injuries, including open sores, infections and broken bones.” Unfortunately, investigations all over the country at other turkey farms have yielded similar results.
In spite of the fact that turkeys are raised under filthy and tortuous conditions, the majority of Americans never stop to question exactly where their turkey dinners are coming from and the effect their holiday meal choice may have on their health, the animals themselves and the environment.
Saying no to turkey this Thanksgiving doesn’t just do the birds a favor, it’s a good choice for your health as well. Research has shown that vegetarians and vegans are less proneto many of the fatal health problems of our time – including cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. If you need another reason, a recent study conducted at USC showed that a vegan diet is the most helpful in producing lasting weight loss, which, in turn, protects people from numerous weight-related diseases. Long story short, if you want to weigh less and live a longer, healthier life, meat-free is the way to go.
Skipping the meat this holiday season can also have a great positive impact on the environment. In the United States, animal agriculture has surpassed both the transportation industry and the electricity industry in emission of harmful greenhouse gasses, making the meat production the country’s leading cause of climate change. 35,000 miles of American rivers are polluted with animal waste and, outside of the U.S., two acres of rainforest are destroyed every minute to grow animal feed. By keeping meat off your table over the holidays, you’ll be doing your part to reduce your family’s carbon footprint and show your thankfulness to Mother Earth.
Cruelty-Free Holiday Alternatives
So, if turkey is off the menu this Thanksgiving, what can you make to feed your hungry friends and family? If you choose to avoid meat and animal products entirely, many animal rights organizations and clean eating websites offer dozens of beautiful, seasonal recipe ideas that are sure to please any crowd. This year, PETA published an entire vegan menu plan featuring everything from ‘Creamy’ Artichoke Dip and ‘Sausage’ Rolls to Vegan Pot Pie and Pumpkin Cheesecake. For more meat-free meal inspiration, you can check out resources from The New York Times, Food & Wine, One Ingredient Chef and Ecorazzi’s delicious collection of vegan holiday desserts.
If you would prefer to make your Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts in the traditional way (usually including butter and cream), there are still many cruelty-free options for a festive main course. Major brands like Trader Joe’s, Tofurky and Gardein offer vegetarian turkey options that come complete with stuffing. Still want a beautiful whole bird as your holiday centerpiece? Check out the Vegan Whole Turkey from Vegetarian Plus. Regardless of your budget or the size of the gathering you are serving, there are healthy, humane, non-meat turkey options available at your local grocery store or health food store.
Want to Help Save Turkeys For Good?
If you’d like to get involved and help end the cruel tradition of turkey dinners during the holidays, the first thing you can do is commit to a meat-free Thanksgiving for you and your family. If you’d like to do even more, consider sponsoring a turkey’s rescue from a factory farm. For a one-time donation of $30, The Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt a Turkey Project will rescue a turkey and provide the bird with a safe, loving home for the rest of his or her life.