Turkey is one of the most popular birds in North America – during the holiday season. This Thanksgiving, turkey will be served on an estimated 46 million Thanksgiving tables across the country.
As a society, we have come to recognize the bird in its cooked form, stuffed with bread crumbs and surrounded by mashed potatoes, but before the bird makes its way to the mouths of hungry holiday diners it was a sentient being. In the wild, turkeys are intelligent, playful, and social creatures. Regrettably the turkey is not known for its stellar personality but rather has become synonymous with terms like naïve, stupid, and inept.
There is a tendency for people to think the animals they serve at mealtime lack intellect and feelings. This unfortunate view will contribute to the slaughter of an estimated 248 million turkeys in the United States during 2011 (that's up 2% from the 2010 number). Alas, the bird is not as dumb as people would like to think. Tom Savage, a nationally known poultry geneticist and scientist at Oregon State University, has said, "I've always viewed turkeys as smart animals with personality and character, and keen awareness of their surroundings. The dumb tag simply doesn't fit."
Turkey sanctuaries across the U.S. also take issue with the “dumb” turkey label and work to raise awareness regarding the cruelty that occurs at U.S. factory farms. Turkeys raised on factory farms are packed into warehouses after removal of parts of their beaks and toes—the painful mutilation is performed without the use of anesthesia. Additionally, turkeys that are served on most tables across America have been genetically altered making them grow faster and larger. This unnatural growth creates health problems, such as organ failure and heart attacks, in the birds during their short lives.
Each Thanksgiving, compassionate vegetarians and vegans opt for a turkey-free holiday. Why not follow their lead this year and forgo the turkey? Meatless substitutes like Tofurky, tofu, and seitan can be served alongside mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and vegetarian gravy—saving just one more turkey from deplorable conditions and slaughter.
Photo credit: Farm Sanctuary