(NOTE: This started out as a post to my Facebook community—but I decided to go ahead and put it on the blog as well.)
I’m going to plug this idea JUST this once before Thanksgiving. As food for thought, so to speak.
Every Thanksgiving, the President pardons a turkey. It’s supposed to be sort of “haha.” Cute. But really, if you think about it, it’s kind of strange and insensitive and pointless (to put it mildly) . Because 40-45 million others still die for the Thanksgiving table. (And the pardoned one gets killed by the next year—if he doesn’t die from the stress of the whole charade before that.)
The thing is, we could EACH pardon one. And that would really be something. We do have that choice and that power, as humans. No need to be President. We can “vote” in that way (and in many other similar ways) for the world we wish to see. Each person in charge of the holiday table could say “You know, this is not worth that.” Could come to the conclusion that this is not who we want to be as humans, or what we need. That tradition and taste are not a good enough reason. And just pass up buying it.
Sure, you could argue that this year, at this point, if we all did that, all those already bred and packaged for the feast would “go to waste.” Maybe, and that would be a bummer. But not as sad as it happening again and again because the demand is there. Because these turkeys are bred specifically for the holiday. They’re produced. If there was no demand for them, they wouldn’t be. That’s how it works. They wouldn’t, like, overtake the wild by the hundreds of millions.
I’m not being militant, demanding or strident about this. Maybe provocative, certainly speaking up for something I think is worth speaking up for, but not combative. More hopeful, having faith in people to see, to care. (I believe that more and more, more are.) It’s meant as a gentle question, a wishful opening, an invitation to try something. Open-handed. Won’t you try? Take a look?
I mean, what if you tried it just this year? (Or, okay, NEXT year.) Just tried. Once. Filled the table with lots of other delicious food (and there REALLY is a LOT of other delicious food to eat! See links at end of this, for starters) and asked others to do same, and see what happens? If it ruins the holiday, is torture, you could always return to “tradition” next year, right? Just see it as an experiment.
Actor Jesse Eisenberg shared on Conan recently about his family’s vegan holiday, which they call “Thanksliving.” Bless him for his good-natured aplomb, even when Conan said it sounded “horrible” and to please never invite him.
It might be an interesting thought process to simply inquire with curiosity what makes a feast filled with food and family “horrible” simply because it lacks a dead bird.
If this is not of interest, no need to say anything. No need to explain why, and no need to point out what you believe are errors in my reasoning. Simply disregard. This is not intended to be a debate or argument. (Of course there are times for that, and I’m perfectly willing. But not on Facebook. And not right now.) It’s not even intended to “convince” (to be fair, it’s not like someone is going to convince me “God meant us to kill and eat animals” or “we can’t be healthy without meat” or “the turkeys will overtake the world if we don’t eat them” or “turkeys don’t feel anything” or “they do, but their feelings don’t matter” or “my taste and tradition are more important than cruelty” or “don’t carrots have feelings too? or whatever.)
So no. It’s not about convincing. I’m not arm-twisting anyone. It’s an ASK. It doesn’t hurt to ask, right? This is intended to be an invitation to reflection and consideration, for those who might be open/interested. Everyone can indeed do what they wish.
I speak up for different aspects of this inquiry at different times of the year. The turkey part of this inquiry is, like all the others, always relevant, but is particularly at the forefront at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, to me, along with being a moment to gather and share good food with family and friends, is a moment to look at—or at least ASK that we look at—what we do to turkeys and why. And what if.
There are times to speak up about all of the many atrocities in the world, at all levels. We all can and should speak up about what we feel strongly is inhumane and unnecessary, for people AND animals AND planet, and there are many such things, and there is no either/or zero sum about it. This is just a moment for this one. And to me, yes, this is one atrocity among many: the miserable lives, brutal treatment and killing of 45 million birds for a culinary “tradition” that is not necessary to our thankfulness or our enjoyment of a delicious meal. One that is worth sticking my neck out for, at least once before Thanksgiving. And my intent is to do it in a way I hope invites some thought, some honest self-reflection. Or not. So be it. It’s a choice. In the end, if I have at least even tickled the awareness in just a few that it IS a choice, that is a start.
If it is not too late, if your turkey is not yet purchased, and you are actually thinking about this (or heck, even for next year), below are some resources. The first bunch is of recipe pages/sites (onegreenplanet.org in particular is one of my latest favorite recipe sites—everything is amazing and mouth-watering. Just the last few are about turkeys—including one sweet and whimsical (a man and his turkey strolling to a Randy Newman song), and one fairly hard-to-watch one. There are more of all of these kinds of links; this is just a sampling. I just wanted to bunch some of the best I’d found in recent weeks into one place, for others’ convenience.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSSHpflC2O4&feature=youtu.be (CUTE: a turkey friend, and Randy Newman song)
My work is not primarily about veganism. My interests encompass a much larger context, of which a plant-based diet is just one piece. I do choose to be 100% veg/99% vegan personally, although I don’t focus on it primarily. It’s included as I write about issues related to health, fitness, sustainability, and humanity.
I strongly advocate that people see “vegan” as a moral/ethical lifestyle, while “plant-based” is a dietary choice/eating style for health/fitness/disease prevention. Conflating the two sometimes causes trouble. I do encourage considering both, and of course in practical terms there is much overlap. But a vegan diet can be, although technically humane, not so healthy if it’s not whole-food plant-based (eg, it could be all peanut butter and white bread and soy ice cream and iceberg lettuce, and that would be technically vegan. Of course that doesn’t work for health—and people who do that (and some do!), as well as eat only fruits and veggies without any proteins such as legumes, beans, nuts and seeds, tend to predictably suffer and abandon the lifestyle, giving it a misinformed bad rap. I would never condone such a thing. You can also eat primarily plant-based (doing a lot for your health and the planet) without being fully vegan or even vegetarian, and I fully acknowledge this. Which is why I think it’s important to note that vegan is a primarily ethical/moral and environmental choice, and a larger lifestyle, based on what you personally choose to be part of and party to. It is not a diet; it is a stance.
My full philosophy about living a joyful, healthy, fueled life that is good for us and others is explained on this page and this page, and I encourage you to check that out. Caring for ourselves is one thing; caring for animals and the planet as another. But in the end, I have found that there needs to be no conflict between them, while also eating the healthiest diet possible, supported by virtually every dietary study known to humans.
You’ll find that I do not focus on veganism in the vast majority of my posts and writing; it’s not my “front and center thing.” (Though I do support those for whom it is.) But in the context of this post, it is relevant, and I take this Thanksgiving eve moment to make this plug. Leaving the turkey off the Thanksgiving table poses absolutely no threat to one’s health. It IS a choice based on taste and tradition, and I only ask that people consider that as we authentically forge ahead in our personal and collective journey to become the human beings we want and need to be. That’s all. It’s an ask. I say it doesn’t hurt to ask.
“A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.” -Leo Tolstoy