The Grinch Who Stole Thanksgiving
A Meat and Dairy Industries Article from


Suki Falconberg
November 2008

It is taken for granted, the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, apparently even by those with some knowledge of the misery. I remember seeing a movie with Richard Gere, who is a vegetarian, and a Buddhist who lobbies for spiritual peace, sitting at just such a table, with the turkey in the center. No peace for that turkey.

The turkey on your table went through a lot before she got there. She was ‘factory farmed.’ This involves procedures that can be defined as extreme torture. Within the first three hours of her birth, the baby turkey had three-toes chopped off and she was debeaked, all without anesthetic. Debeaking involves amputating the highly sensitive beak tissue with a hot blade, and it causes life-long pain and suffering. Both debeaking and toe amputation are regarded as ‘necessary,’ so the birds will not peck and claw each to death out of misery and frustration in the warehouses where they ‘live’ until slaughter.

Factory farming, also called ‘intensive confinement,’ crowds thousands of birds together in large barns where they stand in their own excrement, breathing in the ammonia fumes caused by the build up. They live their entire lives under these conditions, which cause ulcerated feet, destroyed lungs, and eyes burned out by the fumes—not to mention emotional frustration, stress, and eventually insanity. They’re also fed a steady diet of antibiotics, to keep them alive in their hell long enough to get them to slaughter.

Growth hormones cause them to develop so fast that their bones and feet can’t bear the weight. The lameness is so severe that they some must crawl around on their wings in order to reach food and water. Other birds trample the weaker ones, and all of these creatures are incredibly sick for their whole lives. If you could imagine being shot up with massive hormones doses and force-fed antibiotics all the time, it’s not a recipe for much bodily joy in life.

The debeaking mentioned earlier also makes it difficult for the bird to eat properly, or to preen herself. If you have seen birds in the wild–those humble, beautiful pigeons, for example, who so gracefully and generously share living space with us—you will note what pleasure they take in grooming and preening. To be deprived of this simple, essential activity, along with no sunlight, no freedom of movement, no air to breathe but that which blisters the lungs—this is an abomination which we humans have visited on these birds.

The only mercy is that their lifespan is brief: within 3 to 5 months, the bird, engineered to grow at an abnormal pace, is ready to slaughter. ‘Stunning’ by electricity, before throat cutting, is supposedly ‘humane,’ at least the poultry industry calls it this—‘humane slaughter.’ We humans are good at inventing oxymorons. In truth, the electricity razors through the birds’ eyes, eardrums, and hearts, causing unbearable pain.

I have seen videos shot in turkey barns. Workers beat the birds with bars, just for the fun of it, as the poor things desperately try to crawl and scramble away on their wings. Birds constantly rub their burned-out eyes with their wings; the corneas look lacerated and raw.

I visited a sanctuary with some rescued turkeys. The poor creatures had been engineered into such grotesquerie that they were barely recognizable as turkeys: huge bodies on crippled feet. Made by Dr. Frankenstein—us. Maybe it’s symbolic that we humans are the Dr. Frankenstein’s of the animal world. Maybe it is an effort to exorcise the monster within.

Those grotesque and pitiful rescued turkeys at least had a few weeks of life in a peaceful place, where they were cared for tenderly, until their hearts gave out—severe heart and lung problems are endemic among these captive, engineered populations of birds, brought on by being forced to grow too large too fast. Just as their feet cannot support their weight, their engorged hearts cannot support their bodies, and they burst inside them.

It is a sad picture. Turkeys in the wild shelter their babies with their wings. They don’t crawl around on them, crippled. Turkey babies are protected under those big, strong wings. Factory farmed turkeys never even know their mothers.

Turkeys in the wild are large and beautiful and proud, with eyes full of light and life.

The Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving is seductive. All these pious salt-of-the-earth Americans, sitting in prayer and feast around the dinner table, laden with its farm bounty, everything shining and haloed and cosy and warm. Breadbasket of the country. Cheerful red tablecloth. Home-made curtains at the window, showcasing a farmland landscape, wood piled high for the fireplace. It is a picture of spiritual bounty as well.

At the center of the table is the turkey—looking all brown and basted and shining, shining like the spiritual bounty in the faces of the salt-of-the-earth Americans.

All I know is that you can’t build any kind of spirituality on the misery of other beings.

It is taken for granted, the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, apparently even by those with some knowledge of the misery. I remember seeing a movie with Richard Gere, who is a vegetarian, and a Buddhist who lobbies for spiritual peace, sitting at just such a table, with the turkey in the center. No peace for that turkey.

Vegetarians live longer than meat eaters. We have fewer diseases. We eat in peace because we know we’re not torturing anything.


As I was finishing up writing the above piece, I came across PETA’s most recent findings on how turkeys are raised and treated. In timely fashion, just before Thanksgiving, PETA released the results of two-month’s investigation into the factory farming of these animals.

Their investigative reporter filmed undercover at Aviagen Turkeys, Inc., a West Virginia enterprise that calls itself the “world’s leading poultry breeding company.” PETA’s investigator saw workers “torture, mutilate, and maliciously kill turkeys.”

Some of the dreadful, unbelievable abuses and conditions:

  • A worker “fatally injected turkey semen and sulfuric acid into turkeys’ heads.”
  • Hens’ beaks were chopped off with pliers. No anesthetic, of course.
  • Birds collapse and die from heart attacks due to stress and exhaustion.
  • Dead birds are left rotting on the floors.
  • “Men shoved feces into turkeys’ mouths.”

I watched the undercover videos and, sadly, saw nothing surprising, having viewed animal torture videos for many years–the ones provided by the brave few who can go undercover to do this sort of filming.

In the videos, I see workers stomping on the heads of live birds. The poor turkeys’ wings flutter helplessly as they roll on the floor. “Fucking hard to kill,” says one of the workers in a very chilling and brutal voice.

It’s the helplessness of the wings that gets to me.

I see the workers roughly tossing the birds into cages, as if they were insensate sacks, and I see others ripping them out of cages and throwing them to the floor. One bird’s wing is broken at an angle as it desperately tries to hobble off, all lopsided. The helplessness of the birds twitching and dying on the floor, fluttering their wings hopelessly in an effort to get away from the torturers. “Fucking hard to kill”? Yes, they are. Life dies really hard in all of us. We want to live. Turkeys want to live.

It’s the moment after the stomping that gets to me as well. When the bird is still alive and shivering on the floor. In the background of these sorts of videos, you can often hear the men joking around, as if this were all good clean American fun. I can imagine some of those TV channels for men carrying this footage so guys can laugh at it over a beer.

The birds are thrown and kicked around like soccer balls. It’s okay for the ‘agitated’ workers to kill a bird, says one of the supervisors on tape. An outlet for aggression and frustration and sheer human cruelty.

On the videos, one worker holds down a hen and mimics raping her. All my life I have been terrified of how men will translate cruelty to animals to me, a helpless woman. I don’t want to imagine the hard punishment fuck this man will administer on a human woman after his simulated rape of the bird. Domination punishment fuck on the defenseless, hen and human woman.

In the rape department, another worker goes farther. He brags of ramming a broomstick into a bird that pecked him. “I shoved that fucking broomstick down two feet,” he boasts.

The men who work in these places are just like the rest of us. They are not moral degenerates or abnormal sadists. They simply represent the typical sadism that emerges when the strong have the weak totally at their mercy—and then there is no mercy. Our brothers and fathers and sons work at these concentration camps for animals, places hidden away in the peaceful West Virginia (or Ohio or California) countryside—until a courageous PETA whistleblower goes to live in hell for a while and lets us know what is going on.

I have a solution for eliminating cruelty to animals, although this particular one is not original with me—Jonathan Swift thought it up a long time ago. We have excess children—millions of them from over breeding in countries like Africa. You see them teeming around on those bleeding-heart TV commercials, worthless, filthy little balls of human dung, of no use to anyone. Let’s factory farm and slaughter the millions of unwanted, abandoned children swarming like lice all over Africa—and South America and India, too. It would give us humans an outlet for our natural cruelty and brutality. Better torture human children than animals—the poor animals are way more helpless. This would have the additional advantage of “decreasing the surplus population,” as Dickens phrases it. A solution to ridding us of all those AIDS orphans in Africa, and the millions of disposable refugee children created by the inevitable fruitless insane wars on that continent. The starving, abandoned, refugee, AIDS-orphaned children of the world are of no use to anyone. They would, however, be useful, practical outlets, in human factory farms and slaughterhouses, for our vicious tendencies to hurt the helpless.

Sources: I took my material from the United Poultry Concerns website. You can also find information at PETA, Farm Sanctuary, Viva!UK, Compassion Over Killing (COK), Mercy for Animals (MFA) and Animal Aid.

Originally published by Suki Falconberg, a contributing editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online.

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