My Thanksgiving discoveries
A Meat and Dairy Industries Article from

FROM Zahava Katz-Perlish, i'm an animal too
November 2020

It’s heartbreaking to know that all this natural wonder is brutally shattered by humans in a process that churns up those beautiful and smart birds into dead meat served on Thanksgiving plates.

girl and Turkey

Years ago, when I first arrived to the U.S. from Israel, I didn’t know much about Thanksgiving. The impression I got from the people around me and the media, was that the focus of the holiday is food, more specifically the turkey. I confess, as someone who is very fond of birds, viewing turkeys as food, and knowing that over 46 million of them are killed for Thanksgiving each year, made me feel a deep aversion towards the holiday. It has been that way ever since.

I hate listening to NPR radio and hearing ideas on how to “prepare” turkey, or answering questions about turkey cooking with employees of Butterball, which multiple undercover investigations into their factory farms, revealed horrific abuse of turkeys. I find it ironic and detestable that holiday decorations and cards are adorned with images of turkeys who’re the victims of this holiday. And the grotesque pardon ceremony–really, who needs to pardon whom?

Here’s what I discovered about turkeys: according to people who spent a great deal of time with them in sanctuaries, they’re sensitive, social and intelligent creatures. Mother turkeys protect their young and risk their lives to save them. When threatened, the mother sounds a warning cry to her babies that means run for cover. She may also attack, or pretend to be wounded to distract predators from her babies.

roosting Turkeys

Turkeys like to listen to music, especially classical, and they love to be snuggled and petted for long periods of time. Young turkeys less than a month old, learn from their mothers what to eat, how to avoid predators, the geographical topography of their home range, and important social behavior.[1] Wild turkeys have a very complex, social life, as the film My Life as a Turkey has documented.

It’s heartbreaking to know that all this natural wonder is brutally shattered by humans in a process that churns up those beautiful and smart birds into dead meat served on Thanksgiving plates.

On farms, thousands of these smart and sensitive birds are packed into dark sheds with no more than 3.5 square feet of space per bird.[2] To keep the extremely crowded turkeys from scratching and pecking each other to death, farmers use hot blades to cut off portions of the birds’ toes[3] and upper beaks,[4] and remove their snoods (flaps of skin at the base of the upper beaks),[5] all without any anesthetic. If that’s not appalling enough, lighting manipulations are used to optimize “production”, resulting in blindness.

Due to selective breeding, farmed male turkeys reach average weight of 41 pounds in a few months. They can hardly walk, nor can they mate, so reproduction occurs through artificial insemination (how ironic for birds who have a complex and unique mating ritual).

At the last stage of their miserable lives, at the “modern” slaughterhouses, turkeys are removed from the crates and shackled by their feet. Those beautiful creatures are hung upside down, struggle to free themselves as they are passed through an electric water bath intended to immobilize them. The killing lines move so quickly that many are not stunned. Automated blades then slit their throat causing them to slowly bleed to death. The Washington Post reported that according to Agriculture Department records, nearly 1 million chickens and turkeys are boiled alive each year in U.S. slaughterhouses, often because fast-moving lines do not kill the birds before they’re dropped into scalding water (used to defeather them).

To learn more about the crowding, disease, neglect, painful mutilations, breeding, and sexual violation (yes, that too) in all turkey farms you can read here.

Knowing that, I ask myself, how can this immense and large scale cruelty mark the spirit of an important American holiday? How come eating tortured dead birds is a symbol of giving thanks? Further, how has Thanksgiving, which started as a harvest celebration, digressed into an opportunistic business operation that causes so much suffering and death to tens of millions of sentient birds?

Those of you who love the companion animal in your lap or sitting nearby, I’m sure you’d be horrified to consider eating him or her. If you choose to eat a different animal, like a turkey, who has many of the shared characteristics that you’ve come to love in your companion animal, please tell me, how do you reconcile it? I urge you to rethink your tradition and habits, and make an ethical choice by not contributing to this suffering and carnage.

One last confession, there is one reason I do love Thanksgiving–the opportunity to meet people, enjoy their company along with their plant-based dishes, and share my vegan creations. This year you may not meet family and friends for the holiday due to the COVID pandemic (which is another important reason to stop eating animals and not support animal farming). However, we can always have a great vegan holiday feast. For wonderful plant-based recipes see links below.

I implore you, extend your thankfulness for life and our beautiful, diverse planet without harming any other animals we share this earth with. Go vegan!

Have a healthy and compassionate Thanksgiving everyone!

Turkey family

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