Contributed by Liz Jones @ethically_elizabeth
Every year in America, approximately 46 million turkeys are brutally killed to celebrate Thanksgiving. To put things into perspective, that’s about one bird for every seven Americans. Prior to the gluttonous tradition of eating until you can hardly move, millions of sentient turkeys are subjected to atrocious conditions on factory farms. Turkeys are kept in filthy, confined spaces, resulting in high rates of disease, respiratory infections, ulcerated feet, blistered breasts and ammonia-burned eyes. By the time the bird reaches your dinner table, he or she has endured unimaginable pain and suffering.
Have you ever wondered why we commemorate thankfulness by brutally ending the lives of millions of conscious beings, who do not want to die? This year, before we sit down, surrounded by more food than some people around the world see in an entire month, perhaps we should consider celebrating an ethical version of the modern Thanksgiving holiday.
After years of participating in the traditional all-American Thanksgiving, I began questioning the legitimacy of the holiday and its roots in cultural history. After all, Thanksgiving was founded to commemorate the feast in 1621, provided by the food amassed by the Wampanoag native peoples. Throughout the years following this meal, thousands of Native Americans were massacred by English settlers, tainting the fairy-tale holiday story most of us grew up hearing. Upon recognizing the ironic similarities between the genocide of the Native Americans and the slaughter of millions of turkeys each year, I chose to celebrate this day by commemorating all human and non-human animals who have endured gross suffering and participate in activities that uplift the community and protect our feathery friends.
A few years ago, I replaced tedious cooking and frivolous holiday spending with more fulfilling traditions. I began participating in vegan food drives for local homeless populations, a Trot for Turkeys with conscious friends and spent the evening surrounded by like-minded, compassionate people. We still eat delicious food, but it doesn’t come at the expense of someone else’s life. I am thankful for the opportunities to give back to the community and get involved with progressive, meaningful social justice movements. These experiences are incredibly rewarding and are much truer to the idea of giving thanks than the holiday I grew up celebrating.
The best news – you don’t have to sacrifice beloved traditions to celebrate an ethical Thanksgiving. You can have your vegan cake and eat it too, and it doesn’t have to come at the expense of taste. Companies like Gardein, Field Roast and Tofurky, as well as popular grocers like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods carry flavorful, delicious holiday roasts. This year, Whole Foods is offering a fully catered dinner menu, featuring winter squash crostini, coconut roasted sweet potatoes, risotto and pecan pumpkin pie.
For the more adventurous souls out there who enjoy a day of playing chef, finding tasty, easy-to-make recipes has never been more convenient. Thousands of delectable holiday meals and how-to videos are available at your fingertips, thanks to talented content creators and social media personalities. Some of my favorite YouTube channels include; From My Bowl, Sweet Simple Vegan, High Carb Hannah, A Chill Vegan, Sweet Potato Soul and Simple Quinoa. Try not to drool too hard over their festive feasts!
Whether you’re eating alone with your cats (I don’t judge – I’ve done it) or are surrounded by dozens of friends and family members, you have an incredible opportunity to give thanks by sparing the life of a beautiful creature this Thanksgiving. Replace a dark-rooted, oppressive holiday with a new tradition, founded on compassion and gratitude; #Thanksliving.