I vividly remember, when I was little, probably three or four, watching my mother “prepare” a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. She had bought a dead turkey with the neck still attached so she could make stock for the stuffing.
As a curious kid, I always spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom, watching her and learning from her. I was often surprised by some of the things she did, but this took it to another level. As I sat by the kitchen island, she chopped the turkey’s neck off. I didn’t just scream; I let out a bloodcurdling shriek. I couldn’t look at my mother for the rest of the day and I didn’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving for years.
I remember thinking, “That could have been my neck!” I have no idea how or why I made that connection at such a young age, but it stuck with me for years. It’s now even a favorite story to tell at every Thanksgiving. My family now jokes about knowing early on that I’d be a vegan. Sure, Dad.
And as Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I’m reminded that more than 45 million turkeys are going to be or already have been slaughtered for this one day. What an astonishing number: 45 million. All these lives taken so we can be “grateful.”
Now, I’ve always been fond of traditions, but it’s time we looked at the victims of them.
Like most animals raised and killed for food, turkeys are put through hell at factory farms from the moment they’re born until they’re violently killed.
These animals never get to know the love of their mothers or feel the sunlight on their backs or the grass beneath their feet. Instead, they are subjected to mutilations without painkillers and crammed by the thousands into dark, windowless sheds.
For maximum profit, turkeys are bred to grow so quickly they often become immobilized under their own weight. In fact, the natural life span of a turkey is 10 years, but through special breeding, turkeys reach “market size” in just several weeks. Many suffer debilitating leg and joint pain, heart attacks, and organ failure. Because of their immobility, many birds have to sit in their own waste, which causes painful sores and infections.
Once turkeys arrive at the slaughterhouse, after being crammed into trucks and shipped without food or water, they are shackled upside down by their feet and have their throats cut open. Some birds are improperly shackled and miss the kill blade, and many are scalded alive in the defeathering tanks.
So it’s time we started a new tradition, one where no animal has to die so we can prove how thankful we are for the good things in life. Companies like Tofurky make it easy with their classic roast and vegan ham. Gardein, Vegetarian Plus, and many others also have vegan roasts that taste just as good, if not better, than turkey meat. And you don’t kill a sentient being in the process.
Remember: If you’re the only vegan on Thanksgiving, you’re not alone. The holiday can be hard for all vegans. Enjoy your vegan food, share it with your family, and stay true to your values. You got this.
Looking for vegan Thanksgiving recipes? Check out our ultimate Thanksgiving menu.