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Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Look at that beautiful face!

           It is almost Thanksgiving here in the States and I am most definitely looking forward to eating a ton of delicious food.  My wife always makes the best meals for the holidays and since she’s Canadian, and since her Thanksgiving is in October, I get 2 Thanksgiving meals.  What a sweet deal I landed, eh?  Generally speaking, each year we have meals that features new dishes or variations on the old standards that make each holiday unique and never dull.  Not once has there been a meal that’s disappointed.
It’s odd to think that since I used to always associate the holidays with specific dishes and any variation on that would feel catastrophic.  Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and broccoli casserole were absolute musts and I would eat them until I would collapse.  But now?  Now, each holiday is something new and different – variety truly is the spice of life and I don’t miss the animal-centered meals that used to constitute my traditions at all.  I don’t mind doing something different.  Doing something different has become our tradition.  This brings me to my next point.
Just because something is a tradition, doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it.  We’ve outgrown many traditions as human civilization has advanced without giving it a second thought.  It used to be traditional to use leeches in medical procedures but I don’t see people being treated with leeches in every hospital across the country.  Why?  Because it’d be silly to do so when we have the knowledge to make better decisions.  The same can go for the traditions we hold around our food options.
Why raise turkeys by the millions just to be tortured, killed, and then consumed by us for one or two meals out of the entire year?  Just for tradition’s sake?  Turkeys don’t deserve that weak excuse and if you’ll keep reading, I hope to explain why that is.

To start, turkeys are incredible creatures.  My wife and I were able to discover this firsthand when we visited both the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and the Farm Sanctuary location in Watkin’s Glen in New York.  They will stroll right up to you if they’re in the mood and let you pet them.  It’s very cool to see how brilliant their colors are in person and to feel how soft their feathers are and how unafraid they are of humans.  It would be like petting someone’s dog or cat that would come rubbing up against your leg.  If they’re feeling particularly friendly, they’ll show off by spreading their tail feathers at you.  I must’ve taken over thirty pictures of all the turkeys I saw while at the two farms.

They are incredibly social and I could’ve watched them cuddle next to each other or walk around in their enclosure together all day.  Not only that but turkeys can identify each other by the noises each makes and can form bonds with each other that lasts forever.  Their mothers will also sleep with her poults (baby turkeys) under her wings at night until they can be on their own.  I had no idea but their heads can also change color depending on their emotional state.  This may also blow your mind:  wild turkeys can fly.  What’s more, turkeys can adjust their sight to gain a 360-degree view.  I think the coolest fact, however, is that they have such an amazing memory for location that they can recall a place they’ve been only once before.  Turkeys in the wild can have a roaming range of up to 1,000 acres and can remember where they found food the previous year and return there in hopes of finding food again.
Sadly, there are way too many turkeys that don’t make it to safe havens like the ones I visited last year.  Millions of turkeys are raised and killed each year for those holiday meals.  Right from birth they know only terrible conditions.  Most of the turkeys raised will never feel the grass under their feet or the sun on their heads.  More and more turkeys are being consumed and so bigger and bigger turkeys are in demand.  To reach this goal, most are genetically enhanced to reach a weight that they would never achieve in nature.  These overgrown turkeys suffer health issues because their frames were never meant to carry the weight.  Think of all those supermarket tabloids or the daytime TV shows that show morbidly obese humans that are over 400 pounds.  Just like our bodies weren’t meant to carry that much weight, neither are turkeys’ bodies.  Remember how I said wild turkeys can fly?  Unfortunately, domesticated birds can’t due to their larger frames.
Since they are crammed into tightly packed barns where they only receive a few feet of space to stand or sit, many turkeys suffer from incredible stress.  Imagine being crammed into a bus or train and being stuck squished between people you don’t know for any amount of time.  You’d go insane within five minutes.  Imagine having that for your entire life.  Due to the stress turkeys feel, they have to be painfully de-toed and de-beaked to avoid them attacking and injuring each other.  The process is performed on newborn poults with shears or a hot blade and without any pain medicine.
Sadly, within just a few months of age and due to the genetic manipulation to increase their size, the turkeys that are sent to slaughter can be injured by the rough treatment they experience during the shipping process and many die even before they reach the slaughterhouse.  No matter if you are buying a “humanely raised” turkey (which is a bullshit expression no matter what you were told or what you believe) or not, all turkeys are hung upside down for slaughter while they are both alive and conscious of the process.  Not only is the process barbaric but there is such disgusting conditions on these farms that the chances a turkey is covered in some sort of disgusting by-product of other animals is probably quite high.
You don’t need me to tell you that turkeys face terrible conditions at the slaughterhouses.  You probably have heard or seen reports from such places that service familiar turkey companies like Butterball.  Sadly, such stories tend not to be the exception to the rule.  Cruelty abounds in the animal food service like with THIS story.

This all brings me to my next topic.  If you feel sad over the conditions these smart and beautiful creatures feel and you want to do something to help the few that make it out of those conditions alive, I highly urge you to donate to Farm Sanctuary.  Currently you have the chance to ‘adopt’ a turkey for just thirty dollars.  That thirty dollars will go to help care for the turkeys at Farm Sanctuary.  It’s such an easy thing to do and the feeling you’ll get knowing you helped improve their life is worth it.  If you don’t want to adopt one or if you are reading this and they don’t have their annual adoption drive, then you can always make a donation for all of the animals at their locations because not only have turkeys suffered, all farmed animals have suffered.  We’ve adopted turkeys in previous years and this year we’ve adopted Cecilia (Who is so cute.  Just go look at her inquisitive stare!).
I can hear you ask, “But what about my turkey at Thanksgiving [or any holiday]?!  What do I do instead?”
Fear not!  There are plenty of options out there nowadays for you to try.  Tofurky still has one of the best go-to options for those craving a turkey substitute.  Quite honestly?  Their roast is very good with gravy and I never thought I’d ever eat anything from a company called “Tofurky”.  Seriously, give it a shot if you can.  Not only that but a great company called Field Roast has a few options for you to try (also quite good!).  You could always try your hand at homemade roasts using seitan if you feel confident in your cooking skills.  My wife has made a few homemade seitan dishes during the holidays and they have all been amazing.  They might not taste the same as that turkey did but when you combine the knowledge that you aren’t hurting another living being and you’re eating a bit healthier, you won’t even care.  Many of the vegan roast options also have a similar consistency as animal flesh so if you’re just craving that experience, you won’t be lacking in that department either.  Or you could just as easily make several amazing vegan dishes without any animal flesh substitutions.  You are only limited by your imagination and the amount of spices you can throw together.
"See? Going turkey-free is easy as can be!"

See, who needs those silly food traditions when you can try cool, new, and even tastier options?  Besides, eating turkeys at Thanksgiving only really came about in the 19th century.  We think of the first Thanksgiving meal coming shortly after the arrival of the pilgrims to the New England area.  That leaves a few hundred years where turkeys were not apart of any fall celebration.  So, as easily as turkeys became apart of our traditions, so to can it become separated from our traditions.  It just takes one meal to start things off for you!  If I can do it, anyone can!
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, and you’re reading this, what is it that you do  for food around the holidays?  Let me know!
I hope you all have an awesome and safe Thanksgiving this year filled with good times and great food!  I shall update about the meal we will have on my next post.  Since my wife is making dinner tonight, the house is filling with mouth-watering smells that are making it difficult for me to concentrate on writing.  I will have to end this here and try to sneak a bite or two before we eat.  Until then, keep calm and vegan on!

To learn more about Farm Sanctuary and/or their turkey adoptions, go HERE.  They’re also on a number of social media sites including Twitter at: @FarmSanctuary
To learn more about Tofurky, go HERE.  They, too, are on Twitter at: @Tofurky
To learn more about Field Roast, go HERE.  They are also on Twitter at: @fieldroast
For more on turkeys, go HERE or HERE.