Thanksgiving. A beautiful holiday, modernized to celebrate our thankfulness. Thankfulness for our families, our friends, our homes, our careers. A holiday that is fundamentally at its core, about appreciating life.
Yet on this holiday, so many of us blindly close our eyes to the hypocrisy that is the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. A meal intended to represent peace, appreciation and a celebration of life is centered around an animal who wasn't given a chance at living.
I could write a speech. I could tell you exactly what was morally, ethically and sociably wrong with consuming a turkey, no older than a baby, as a way to give thanks for the essence of life. In fact, I wrote that speech. However before publishing that post last night I realized one thing. That wasn't my approach.
As dedicated and fiercely committed to my beliefs on animal welfare as I am, I have learned the blunt approach can be more detrimental than impactful. Through experience I learned that people are more receptive to listening when their personal way of life is not being challenged. Therefore I have adapted my approach at activism by allowing my animals to speak for themselves.
When someone sees Olivia in her sweater to stay warm on a chilly morning, or meets Billy for the first time and hears his wide array of grunts, a connection is made. Suddenly the bacon on the plate has a face. It was someone, he was someone. The disassociation between living animals and the dead being strung up in slaughterhouses are stitched together. By showing the personalities, individuality and pure love for life all animals express, humans realize their food had feelings, and that makes it much more difficult to eat.
So this Thanksgiving, rather than telling you not to eat that Turkey, I ask just one thing. Know your food.
Most of us have been to an orchard. We've picked apples, or berries or pumpkins in the fall. We've visited farmers markets and seen the wide array of vegetables and fruits, all harvested from the earth. But have you ever visited a turkey farm? Have you ever walked through a paddock looking for the plumpest Turkey that would be the juiciest on your plate? Have you ever met a turkey?
The answer to those questions is most likely no. Why? Because while our society accepts the practice of raising animals for slaughter, we have not accepted the act of death itself. The truth is, if most people were exposed to the animal they were about to eat before it was killed, they wouldn't allow that animal to meet the knife.
Did you know that Turkeys are highly sociable animals? The stigma that they are dumb simply does not fit. When turkeys are allowed to live a natural life they spend their days tending to their young, roosting high in trees, playing with their best friends (yes, they form deeply attached friendships!) and scavenging for food. Turkey's are naturally curious animals and travel in groups of family and friends. Turkeys are even known to enjoy music and cluck along to their favourite songs. Turkeys have a natural life span of ten years, however the ones raised for human consumption are killed before they reach just six months of age.
For those that are already living a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, thank you. Continue spreading the true message of veganism - love. Eating a plant based diet is not about giving up what you love, it is about protecting what you love.
For those who still aren't ready to pass up the Turkey this year, I still believe in you. Your time will come, the connection will be made. You are not a heartless person, you are not incapable of change. You are just not ready. When you open your heart to include every earthling on this planet you will understand, and you may question why it took you so long.
This thanksgiving, regardless of what your plate looks like, I encourage you to spread an act of kindness to the animals. Kindness is kindness, however small or grand the gesture may be. Simply show your thankfulness for being human in a world where animals are viewed as less than beings. Give something back to the earth for all the lives taken from it.