Here’s What You Should Show Your Family When They Ask Why You Don’t Eat Turkey

You’re already feeling uncomfortable, watching your family carve up a tortured animal’s carcass, when the questions begin: Won’t you be hungry? But how is it Thanksgiving without the turkey? Why don’t you want to eat the turkey?

While your family’s questions can be annoying at best and offensive at worst, they are also opportunities to open up the conversation about why you don’t eat turkey in the first place. This year alone, 45 million turkeys will be killed for our Thanksgiving dinners—and we can help bring that number down, one family at a time. But if you’re not one for in-person confrontation, or if you’d like something to send your family ahead of the barrage of questions this year, this is the article for you.

Below is a collection of videos from some of Mercy For Animals’ many undercover investigations into turkey factory farms and slaughterhouses. Images often speak louder than words, and these videos are powerful proof of that. It might seem like an aggressive move to send all these videos at once, but if your intention is not to shame someone but to help increase their compassion, it can actually be an act of love.

And if you are a loved one on the receiving end of this article, thank you for being open to learning more. These videos may not be easy to watch, but the truth can only empower you and your family moving forward. 

House of Horrors

In 2007 an MFA investigator worked at House of Raeford Farms in Raeford, North Carolina. There, turkeys were found with broken wings and legs, bloody open wounds, tumors, and other untreated injuries and illnesses. The investigator documented workers ripping the heads off live turkeys, birds being crushed to death under the wheels of trucks, and conscious turkeys having their throats slit.

These horrors are even more tragic once you know that turkeys are sensitive, social, and intelligent animals. They boast a complex vocabulary of gobbles, purr when petted, and mourn the deaths of flockmates. They feel pain and fear and are very aware of their surroundings.

Butterball Abuse

The largest turkey manufacturer in the United States, Butterball is a repeat offender when it comes to animal abuse. MFA investigators went undercover into Butterball factories in 2011, 2012, and 2014 and documented horrific mistreatment of turkeys each time, including workers kicking and throwing turkeys, baby birds being ground up alive in giant macerating machines, turkeys having their toes and beaks cut or burned off without painkillers, and injured birds being left to suffer and die without proper veterinary care.

Turkey isn’t looking so appetizing now, is it?

The video above, also taken at Butterball, shows the all-too-common practice of grinding up injured baby turkeys alive once it’s determined they can’t be used for food.

Bred for Pain

An MFA investigation into an Ontario factory farm revealed turkeys with festering infections left to suffer without any veterinary care. Workers were repeatedly shown choking turkeys, crushing their spines, and even bashing in their heads with shovels and metal rods. As is the case with most turkeys eaten on Thanksgiving, these birds had been bred to grow so quickly that many collapsed under their own weight.

Hell in Lilydale

As you may gather by now, factory farms that abuse animals are not outliers—they are the norm. In yet another investigation, this time into Lilydale slaughterhouses in Canada, MFA found sick and injured turkeys slaughtered along with other birds intended for human consumption. Frightened birds were dragged through electrified water, painfully shocked but still conscious. Many turkeys were conscious when their throats were cut open, and many were scalded alive in hot water tanks.

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a holiday about gratitude, not animal abuse.

Lucy’s Life in 30 Seconds

In the wild, turkeys happily spend their days caring for their babies, building nests, foraging, grooming, and hanging out in trees. Baby turkeys stay with their mothers for the first five months of their lives. At factory farms, this is their fate instead:

If you were sent this post by a veg family member and you’ve made it this far, congratulations—now you know where your food really comes from. Hopefully, now you understand why your loved one doesn’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and perhaps you will consider doing the same now that you know the truth. Why take part in animal abuse when you don’t have to, especially when eating meat increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, food poisoning, antibiotic resistance, and premature death?

Fortunately, traditional Thanksgiving sides like mashed potatoes, string bean casserole, and stuffing are just as delicious and easy to prepare without animal products. You can replace the turkey with whichever cruelty-free centerpiece you prefer: stuffed squash; vegan Wellington; or one of the many plant-based turkey alternatives, such as Field Roast’s Celebration Roast and Gardein’s Holiday Roast, which are delicious and available online or at local grocery stores like Safeway and Whole Foods.

Make this Thanksgiving a truly happy and grateful one by saying no to this unnecessary suffering.