Compassionate Thanksgiving

By Glauce Fleury

Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in Canada in 1879. In 1957, the Parliament announced that the date would mark our thanksgiving to God for the abundant harvest, so since we give thanks.

Every year about 3 million turkeys are killed in Canada to feed most of the families who sit down with their loved ones for a Thanksgiving dinner (in the States, this number reaches the unbelievable mark of more than 40 million turkeys).

After going vegan, I realized it’s overrated to associate turkey to Thanksgiving  or any other special date. If this dinner is supposedly to give thanks to all the good, the facts below could easily help you dissociate the bird from the date:

  • In the nature, turkeys could live up to 10 years. In factory farms, they’re slaughtered when they’re 5 months old. They don’t even have the chance to be with their moms (yes, they miss them like we would).
  • In these farms, before being slaughtered, turkeys are kept in sheds so packed that flapping a wing or stretching a leg is almost impossible (think of being innocent and thrown into an overcrowded prison).
  • In tight sheds, turkeys could end up killing each other. To prevent this from happening (and preserve their profit), farmers cut off parts of the birds’ toes and beaks. No painkiller (similar to having our fingers cut off with scissors).
  • In the 70s, turkeys weighed less than 20 pounds. Now, almost 30 pounds. That’s the result of genetic manipulation. For profit, obviously. The overweight can cause them heart attacks, and the manipulation makes them break their legs often.
  • In the slaughter process, farmers slice the turkeys’ necks with a blade, and send the birds to a tank of hot water that removes their feathers. But the blade misses a few turkeys, so these are sent fully conscious to the tank, and boiled alive (it’s like being put in a bathtub with boiling water).

When my diet included meat, I didn’t know any of this. Now I do, so I can’t pretend it’s not happening. One mistake I always made was to never think of what I was eating. When I cooked any animal-based food, to me it was just food.

One day, during my lunch break, I watched the documentary What Cody Saw without knowing what exactly I’d see. I saw male chickens being thrown in grinding machines (they can’t lay eggs, so that’s how the food industry discards them).

I was eating an omelette when I started watching that. I couldn’t finish my meal. Since then, I’ve adopted a plant-based diet. I realized that what I used to eat faced a lot of pain to be on my plate. I had to stop supporting it.

I do appreciate the meaning behind special celebrations like Thanksgiving and Christmas. My parents always told me to be grateful and give thanks to all the good things. When I eat something amazingly good, it’s like a blessing, so I say thanks.

But do you think it’s possible to eat turkey, knowing all of this, and give thanks?

Photo credit: © Vicki DeLoach under Creative Commons via Flickr.

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