A New Tradition
Updated: Nov 15, 2021
By Ashley Roth
Thanksgiving is a paradox. You have the warm and fuzzy on one side. For me, this translates into warm carbohydrates, classic holiday movies brought from the closet, and an antique bingo game that used to be at my great-grandma’s house—the same house where a gazillion Thanksgivings were hosted. Conversely, there’s a morose and dark underbelly of this particular holiday—one that is especially topical when turning on the news and seeing the genocide of indigenous Americans isn't a distant past; we are not redeemed. The holiday celebrates a false union and is responsible for another massacre. Every year Americans sit down to their carbs and sugar and gather around a turkey corpse—a dead body whose insides were ripped out and churned into another abominable dish. Why not reinvent this day?
1999 was my first turkey-free Thanksgiving. It was met with a string of, “But, why?” Each relative was shocked and couldn't understand why I just added more mashed potatoes to the empty spot on my plate. There are so many reasons why! First off, eating dead animals is gross and sad. Think about it. CHEWING ON A PIECE OF DEAD FLESH! It’s disgusting! And why would I want to subject turkeys to tiny cages and throat slashing when there are several roast substitutes that are delicious—and death-free! Gardein’s roast may be my current favorite, but there is also the classic Tofurky, Trader Joe’s house roast, Field Roast’s Celebration Roast….the list goes on and on!
“But they are just turkeys.” I loathe this statement, but I’ve heard it before. I mean, would you carve up the animals in your family for the holiday? Didn't think so. So, why turkeys? Did you know a happy turkey purrs? I saw this fact in a children’s book recently, but have also seen it firsthand at a visit to Farm Sanctuary in California. Turkey Lurkey, one of the resident turkeys, kept rubbing on my side eager for pets—and, yes, she totally purred!
Even if you don’t place turkeys on the same level as cats and dogs (although I still can’t discern the differences!), you have to admit their lives are pretty sad. Hatched in a crowded room, debeaked and their toes are cut off so they don't harm each other—these aggressive behaviors are often stress related, too! And there’s the last few hours. Throats cut on a metal blade, upside down assembly line and then tossed in scalding water to remove their feathers. Did you know many of them aren't dead when dunked in this hot water? Does any living creature deserve that?
We as an American culture do know killing 300 million turkeys a year is wrong. How do I make that assumption? OUR COUNTRY’S LEADER PARDONS A TURKEY. Come on! One turkey gets to live and we “anthropomorphize” a single excluded turkey who finds salvation from our president. Is that turkey really any different from the others. Maybe they want to live, too?
I get it. You love tradition. You love making memories with family and friends. You can still do that without slaughtering turkeys and without perpetuating that myth about pilgrims and Native Americans. Ditch the paper headdresses. Ditch the dead bodies at the table. Make the memories. Play the games. Eat the pumpkin everything.
Have a happy cruelty-free vegan Thanksgiving!