It’s weird. Every Thanksgiving, per tradition, when it was my turn to say what I was grateful for, I’d always thank the turkey who gave his or her life for our feast. That’s what we were taught to do: celebrate a turkey’s life and then happily eat the flesh. HOW CREEPY. It was watching videos from PETA investigations of factory farms that made me realize that those turkeys didn’t give away their lives—instead, their lives were violently taken from them.
There are some truths that you just can’t unknow. After learning that turkeys are forced to endure horrible conditions and treatment on factory farms and recognizing that my 15-minute meal cost a life that was filled with agony, I had to take action. I had to stop eating turkeys and other animals whose deaths were valued more than their lives. For me, going vegan was barely even a choice—it was a moral obligation as a human animal.
And if this peek into the dark, dirty secret behind Thanksgiving isn’t reason enough to keep turkeys off your dinner plate, I have more. With a clear conscience, I went to meet some rescued turkeys at my local farm sanctuary. Here are a few of my new friends and their stories:
Helena was likely born in a mass-production hatchery, where baby turkeys are put into large incubators and have to huddle around heat lamps for warmth like this one:
Once the baby birds are old enough, they’re shipped to a factory farm, where their beaks and even some of their toes may be cut off—without any painkillers. You can tell from this photo that Daisy (closest to you) was forced to experience this excruciatingly painful procedure. 🙁
This li’l lady miraculously fell off a transport truck on her way to a factory farm. Now, she gets to live out the rest of her life at the sanctuary. Martha loves having the underside of her wings scratched, and she’ll even make the sweetest chirping noises in approval.
Cosette isn’t unlike any other turkey you might find on your dinner plate. Cosette and her turkey comrades are bred to grow so large, so fast, that their legs often break under the weight of their own bodies. Instead of being pumped full of antibiotics, which help promote even more growth, Cosette will spend the rest of life in an open pasture. She is the exception.
Life on a factory farm is no life at all. After Oliver was stuffed into a transport truck headed for slaughter, the truck crashed, killing most of his cagemates. He was rescued by a compassionate witness and survived. Oliver will now spend the rest of his days in companionship with other rescued turkeys.
I don’t know Abigail’s story, and to be honest, it doesn’t matter. It’s safe to assume that any defeathered, beheaded turkey you buy at the grocery store endured industry-standard cruelty. But even if Abigail was treated like a queen, I could never eat her flesh. Look into her eyes and tell me if you could.
This isn’t how we should be celebrating. The birds I met are miracle birds—they survived the holiday that steals 45 million turkey lives per year. It’s a simple process of supply and demand. Do you demand that one of these turkeys goes through all this horror for the sake of tradition? If you don’t, then fewer turkeys will be produced and fewer animals will suffer.
This Thanksgiving marks my fourth year of leaving dead birds off my dinner plate. But my plate won’t look much different from anybody else’s. I’ll be having a Tofurky Roast and mashed taters with gravy, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin muffins. Nobody is asking you to sacrifice flavor or your #foodie status. These feathered ladies and gents are simply asking that you don’t sacrifice them. Will you save a life?