Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thanksgiving again

I feel like Thanksgiving as a holiday is a mixed blessing. I have been a vegan for long enough that Thanksgiving now has happy connotations of sitting down and enjoying a cruelty free meal. But being part of the world, I see the cruelty this institution carries forth with the tradition of turkey slaughter.

It seems ironic that the season directly following Halloween is the one full of actual horror. A culture of people sitting down to a ritual of celebration and gratitude over a table laden with ribs, legs, and gizzards sounds like the extreme, anti-Druid propaganda that Caesar used to spread. Yet its real and we do it without even thinking.

Bowling with turkey carcasses, putting fireworks in the anal cavity of turkey carcasses, or shooting turkey carcasses out of catapults are some examples I have heard from "creative fundraising" in local and national news. We as a culture seem to have totally desensitized ourselves to the fact that turkeys are living things. The happy turkey as a cariacature of this holiday hides the horrors or factory farming that put these intelligent, sensitive beings through tortures for every moment of their unnaturally short lives. Currently the "pardoning" of one turkey by our president is the only opportunity most Americans have to look at a living turkey's face and feel any kind of compassion. Yet the very associations of the word "pardon" imply that all turkeys deserve slaughter. As if they have committed some crime simply by being born into their species.

I occasionally clean barns for the local farm animal sanctuary, and I rub elbows with several turkeys there. Fiona is my favorite. She is quiet and dignified, but friendly. She follows me around the farm and supervises all my work. Her vocalizations sound like amiable gossip as she takes great interest in all my affairs. At open houses she is always the star of the photo opps because she sits down in the grass and lets everyone pet her. And she always searches you for treats. She will take any type of food that you drop but her favorite is popcorn.

Fiona is one of three siblings, along with Burnadette and Tom. Tom recently passed from the organ failure commonly associated with factory farmed birds. They are genetically modified to be so meaty that their poor organs and limbs can barely carry them through their brief lives.

It would be great if we took the Thanksgiving season as an opportunity to extend our compassion and thoughtfulness about the creatures so many of us eat.

Here is some very basic info from www.peta.org

More than 248 million turkeys are raised for food every year in the U.S.; about 77 million of them are slaughtered and eaten for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.(8,9) Before ending up as holiday centerpieces, these gentle birds spend five to six months on factory farms, where thousands of turkeys are packed into dark sheds with no more than 3.5 square feet of space per bird.(10) To keep the extremely crowded birds from scratching and pecking each other to death, workers cut off portions of the birds' toes and upper beaks with hot blades and desnood the males (the snood is the flap of skin that runs from the beak to the chest).(11) No painkillers are used during these procedures.

Let's really go forth into the world this Thanksgiving and share the happiness of enjoying a cruelty free meal. That would really be something to be thankful for.

To conclude I want to share a poem that I read as a child but did not really "recognize" until recent years. This is from the book, "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein:

Point of View
Thanksgiving dinner’s sad and thankless
Christmas dinner’s dark and blue
When you stop and try to see it
From the turkey’s point of view.
Sunday dinner isn’t sunny
Easter feasts are just bad luck
When you see it from the viewpoint
Of a chicken or a duck.
Oh how I once loved tuna salad
Pork and lobsters, lamb chops too
‘Til I stopped and looked at dinner
From the dinner’s point of view.

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