Re-evaluating the tradition of Thanksgiving dinner
Thanksgiving — the time of year that resonates with feelings of gratitude for the many blessings we have in our lives. We have collectively institutionalized, remained faithful to and enjoyed our national expression of gratitude every November since 1863.
As we remember why we observe this holiday in the first place, some would recall that Thanksgiving is actually a celebration of the conquest of the Native Americans by the Colonists. Hmm … as an adult who has spent the better part of her life seeking peace, compassion and purpose, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to celebrate that. There are those (such as Professor Dan Brook of the University of California, Berkeley) who condemn the “cultural and political amnesia” of Americans who celebrate Thanksgiving, mindlessly and without true purpose.
Ah well, it is tradition.
So, Thanksgiving has become an anticipated family reunion and/or a gathering of friends. We travel far and wide to be close to those we love. It is a yearly orchestration of food and folly. The crescendo of the holiday symphony is one big meal, one dinner around which we gather and admire and devour – counting our blessings in between the cranberry sauce and the lull of the football game or parade on our high-definition televisions.
But the approximately 240 million turkeys that will be killed in the U.S. this year have absolutely nothing to be grateful for. Their lives … their entire lives have been nothing more than a concerto of evil.
Instead of living a full life span of 10 years, your Thanksgiving turkey will only be alive for six months, living in a dark factory with tens of thousands of other turkeys, without ventilation – breathing in ammonia fumes 24/7. Yes, this applies to your cage-free, free-range turkeys, too. They are force fed to grow three times faster than they would grow naturally and many suffer heart attacks when their hearts and lungs just can’t keep up with the growth of their bodies. Some die of starvation because they won’t reach the food and water stations when their fragile legs cannot hold up the weight of their grotesquely overgrown bodies. Their beaks and their toes are cut off without anesthesia. They go insane from the confinement and from having to breathe in toxic fumes. When it is time to take them from the factories to the slaughterhouse, they are thrown onto trucks, transported to the slaughterhouse and dumped from the trucks onto conveyor belts. Many fall off during unloading and get crushed by machines or die slowly from injuries. Inside, they are hung upside down and their heads are dragged through electrified stun tanks, which will stop them from moving, although will not kill them. Their throats are slit on yet another conveyor belt with blades. They are then dumped into scalding hot water to remove their feathers. They are still alive at this point, but not for much longer. Their screams are deafening, but we will never hear them. (source: https://kirschnerskorner.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/if-turkeys-could-speak/)
An article in the industry trade journal Turkey World summarizes the beginning of their lives this way: “Poults come in one side of the service room bright eyed and bushy tailed. They are squeezed, thrown down a slide onto a treadmill, someone picks them up and pulls the snood off their heads, clips three toes off each foot, de-beaks them, puts them on another conveyer belt that delivers them to another carousel where they get a power injection, usually of an antibiotic, that whacks them in the back of their necks. Essentially, they have been through major surgery. They have been traumatized. http://freefromharm.org/animal-cruelty-investigation/12-reasons-you-may-never-want-eat-turkey-again/
If you are uncomfortable reading this, you very well should be. What was once an anticipated family get-together has turned into a sad and solemn occasion for me — where once again, I am powerless to convince my family and my friends that this tradition (and cruelty to all of our fellow earthlings) needs some serious re-evaluation. My heart is irreparably broken and my soul is on fire. I cannot scream loud enough. I’ve searched my whole life, journaling, “What is the truth?” “What is our task in this one life we’ve been given?”
The answer is summed up in pure perfection by Albert Einstein when he said:
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
And yet, I am still grateful. I am grateful for my health, the love in my life and my dog Henry. I am grateful for the few left in my immediate circle who understand me and do not mock my convictions. I am grateful for a growing community of dedicated vegan activists who work hard every day to change the paradigm, to awaken compassion and humanity where it has been anesthetized and buried underneath greed, separateness and a plague that I call the, “I don’t want to know” syndrome. This movement is growing. I can feel it.
“So when you wonder why I keep going on, it’s because no matter how much flack vegans have to take (on Thanksgiving and every other day) it’s nothing compared to what the sweet and vulnerable victims of non-vegan choices are suffering, and will continue to suffer, until all ears hear the vegan message.
We say we want a peaceful world, we say we hate violence, we say we hate cruelty. Great. Let’s walk the walk and live those values by taking violence off our plates.” (https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/the-sadness-of-being-vegan/)
When you sit down to dinner this November, why just say grace, when you can live it?
Wishing you gratitude, compassion and a true thanks-giving.