08 November 2011

This Thanksgiving help a turkey avoid a fowl fate

It's the holiday season once again. In many places, this means a beautiful autumn/winter (summer is overrated, I say) taking time to spread good cheer and gratitude for the two and four-legged loves in our lives. The holiday season is rich with compassionate giving for many of us, yet, it's easy to overlook the toll this time of year takes on the turkey. Since 1986, Farm Sanctuary and their Adopt-A-Turkey project have worked to rescue these "star-crossed" animals from the Thanksgiving holiday, and for the second year in a row, Ellen DeGeneres has volunteered as spokesperson for the annual fundraiser.

Despite their reputation for less than MENSA status among their aviary counterparts, the turkey is a surprisingly intelligent animal. It's also worth mentioning that the wild turkey's status as a Thanksgiving tradition isn't even accurate—the poultry industry manufactured the "tradition" shortly after World War II.

Ellen DeGeneres speaks up for the turkey, "Did you know that every year between 250 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."

In 25 years, the Farm Sanctuary has saved more than one-thousand turkeys, and adopted out 600 to local vegan/vegetarian households. The yearly event allows anyone to sponsor a turkey for $30, or a flock for $180. That's one turkey for a fraction of what we're likely to spend over the course of the holidays, and it's an easy way to make a small difference in an animal's life.

The demand each holiday season accounts for nearly 50 million slaughtered turkeys, with debeaking and detoeing (without anesthesia) standard practices in factory farming or free-range conditions. Despite the common perception, whether free-range or factory farmed, turkeys endure extreme and horrific living conditions for the holiday season—a direct contradiction to the spirit of health and happiness of which we celebrate. Each year, the Farm Sanctuary rescues turkeys born in these conditions, often mutilated and never having spent a day outside. Like many animals given a chance to live, turkeys have their own personalities, not unlike many of the cuter animals of which we welcome into our homes. This year, let's live up to our own standards of compassion, taking the turkey out of Thanksgiving and putting the compassion back into the holiday season.

Nathan Rivas
Nathan is a passionate animal advocate and vegan in the Seattle-area, who lives with a crazed dachshund, an enormous Maine coon and a judgemental short haired black cat. Nathan graduated with a Bachelors of Science (summa cum laude) from Northeastern University. He is preparing for his Masters of Science program in the fall and likes to make jokes that involve the chemical compound arsole (and is totally addicted to gardein).

Photo credit: Farm Sanctuary