LettersLetter from James about going vegan
Letters From All-Creatures.org and The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation

Email exchanges between James and Frank
August 2014

August 4...

Dear James:

Thank you very much for your comments, and we’re very happy to hear that you are moving closer to eliminating the eating of animals.

Thank you also for your comments on our web site. From your description, you were probably looking are our turkey animal exploitation photo journal, which is the directory page of many photos and comments, which were originally posted to try to reach the Christian community and young people, which has been fairly successful over the years. Most of the religious commentary is from us, but a lot of the commentary is from the sources of the images, which we did not want to change. Other than for these two points, we will look very seriously consider your suggestion. Thank you.

We believe we saw the turkey video you mentioned sometime last year.

We went through the same experiences you did before we because vegan nearly 30 years ago for reasons of compassion, and then we experienced wonderful improvements in our hearth. Today, in our mid-seventies we take no medications and rarely see a doctor except for routine examinations. You and you wife should take a look at our recipe section.

We look forward to hearing from you again.

In the Love of the Lord,

Frank and Mary

August 3...

Dear All-Creatures,

I am writing with some suggestions for your web site.  I looked into the section on turkeys and their, 'processing' for market.  I did not know anything about how turkeys are raised but my wife saw a truck today transporting turkeys I'd guess for slaughter at a nearby processing plant and she described to me how bad it looked and how the animals seemed miserable flying down the highway in an open truck at about 70 miles per hour.  The truck with the turkeys packed into the cages very tightly sounded to me like they indeed used the cheapest way possible to ship them without as you say, without any thought that these are living, feeling creatures.

I have been trying to eat less meat for the last few years more as a way to get healthy than because I know very much about how animals are treated in factory farms.  So you can educate me.  I looked carefully at the pictures and read the captions and I now am thinking about how I can limit my eating turkey.  As you know, turkey 'production' in this country is probably increasing rapidly since people all over seem to talk about how much healthier it is than many other meats.  Your site gave me quite a lot more to consider and I agree with you that even though I am not a bird and so can't begin to know what hurts and what does not, I can see the suffering that almost certainly goes on and I felt bad for the birds.  My only other experience with, 'turkey production' was on a trip I took to California and when I was out on a very remote road probably over a hundred miles from any interstate highway and I came over a hill to see thousands of turkeys in a huge fenced in area.  There was nothing else around them except for a few trees and they were not looking very content; no food or water or anything for them to do but walk around.  They were as you described, walking around in their own feces and probably suffering from the sheer monotony of the life forced on them.  This scene went on for at least a half mile and all I could see was turkeys far off the road, not hardly any landscape.  It was a huge operation that today would be called a, 'free range turkey farm'. I felt vaguely uneasy but didn't at the time think I should stop eating turkey.  This by the way was in 1972 and I was a kid.

You have guessed by now that I am an average consumer who didn't know much about factory farms.  The one exception is stories I read in the paper about how factory hog farms are greatly expanding in my state and that almost all the rural people who live around the operations hate them.  I am slowly being converted, and this is the way it happens to most average people as they become educated about abuses creeping into our culture.  I might emphasize again that I used the words, 'slowly being converted'.

Now for the bad stuff!  I pray you will take this as a bit of constructive criticism and not be offended.  I spent over two hours on this one page about turkeys but I almost got off your site because you seem to be giving me many messages all at the same time and all I really wanted was some information about what happens to turkeys before I consider eating them.  I was suitable impressed and saddened by the obvious animal abuse, so I am on your side.  I will probably greatly reduce my consumption of turkey so you helped convert me in a little over an hour.  Why then am I criticizing your site?  The first reason is the caption writing under the pictures.  It's not done like professional writing.  The vast majority of people do not think like you do so it is important to realize you must convert people gently and not hit them over the head with a sledge hammer by using words and phrases like,'...horror...atrocities...one evil upon another...forced to endure day after day...(we) are not humane...(for us) to do nothing about it is to be depraved...bless these killers?....etc.'  I can see you are passionate but remember, the people you are trying to make friends with and convert like to eat turkey!  I know you want to make them feel very guilty but could you be less blunt?  Behavior change takes place slowly and you may be insulting and offending the very people you want to have join your movement.  You are asking them to change a most basic human activity and eat differently; you are asking them to stop doing something they really like. What is the best way to do this?  Another way you may turn your audience off is what you say between the lines.  I got the distinct impression you would not like me at all because I am not a vegan, I don't have the exact same religious view of the world as you, I like to fish so I should be condemned for it, Jesus would not approve of me and so forth.  Would you ever say these things to a prospective friend you just met for the first time at a party?  Your message should be simple: This is what they do to turkeys so you can eat them.  Let your readers decide for themselves how they feel about it and if they need to change their behavior.  All the rest of the stuff confuses the issue.  Remember you are trying to make friends with me, not be my parent.  It has not escaped me that what I am doing right here looks quite a bit like I am trying to be YOUR parent.  But I want you to succeed and this is the spirit I hope I have conveyed.  Have someone who is good at writing advertising copy look at your stuff; better still have a good salesman give you an honest opinion of how the site makes a prospective convert feel.  Please don't sound like a fanatic, it turns people away!  Lastly, I realize most of the photos were probably taken with a hidden camera and the photographer was in some danger from the owners of the plant.  So some of them didn't come out so well, although others did.  Try to see if you can get some better close-up pictures of the animals to show their suffering.  Very clear close-ups of the mutilated beaks and feet and their injuries, some more clear views of the live poults being suffocated in plastic bags will go a long way.  Can you get video of the baby birds in the machines?  The images your message is competing with are all the slick supermarket advertising images showing a beaming, proud, smiling grandma carrying in the fabulously delicious looking Thanksgiving turkey. You are up against pros.

Your essential message is very powerful stuff!  The parts about the six-month life expectancy of a turkey in these conditions vs. up to twenty years in the wild, the operators treating live birds like trash and suffocating them, chicks being killed in the machinery and giving each bird only three square feet when the are fully grown and so forth are very powerful arguments to stop supporting this industry even though the rest of the world tells us we will be better, happier and healthier people if we eat more turkey.  I wish you all the luck in the world and many converts to your movement.

PS:  This is on a slightly different subject but I hope you go out and look up a story I saw on TV last year around Thanksgiving, of all times.  You would enjoy it immensely.  It is a full-length documentary on one of the nature channels done by a man who is a wildlife photographer or a conservation writer.  I can't remember his name or the name of the show, but it was great.  He lives far out in the country and one day he discovered a clutch of newly hatched wild turkeys whose mother had been killed by a fox, I think.  He built a place for them to grow and be safe on his farm and then made them his pets.  They imprinted on him and he took them everywhere.  The man became completely engrossed in this and he became a full-time, 'turkey mother' to them.  He learned to understand the meaning of their various sounds.  They have a vocabulary of over twenty-words and show much more social behavior than you can imagine.  He even slept with them in a tree! He documented all this in excellent videos over a year in the life of the birds as they grew up then finally left to go on with their lives as mature birds. I'll bet you can get him to do a short video on all the special talents and intelligence of wild turkeys.

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