“Considering that virtually none of the standard fare surrounding Thanksgiving contains an ounce of authenticity, historical accuracy, or cross-cultural perception, why is it so apparently ingrained? Is it necessary to the American psyche to perpetually exploit and debase its victims in order to justify its history?” — Michael Dorris
This is not a lesson in American history. Hopefully, you know a thing or two about the origin of myths that transform into ideas that ultimately get quoted as facts. These facts eventually get embedded in culture and traditions that evolve with time. Thanksgiving is one such great example that has come a long way from its religious roots to its modern capitalist incarnations of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So we gather with our family and friends on this day of tradition and give thanks by gorging on stuffed turkeys! Around 74% of us then go and buy some thing that’s on sale. But traditions have a way of changing or reinventing themselves and nothing helps set change in motion like knowledge.
Globally over 640 million turkeys a year are farmed for meat production, with close to 300 million in the U.S. alone. Around 15% of all turkeys grown in the U.S. are eaten on Thanksgiving. These turkeys don’t happily stroll into their Thanksgiving graves; their journey is a story of cruelty and unimaginable suffering. Modern day turkey production, like all poultry production in the U.S. is a highly industrialized billion dollar business. Turkey production in the U.S. peaked in 1996, by numbers, but since then, the advent of intensive farming has bred bigger and fatter turkeys that mature earlier, so actual consumption by weight hasn’t changed because there is more flesh per turkey. In the 1960s, it took about 200 days to raise a 30lb turkey, but today this can be done in half that time. Turkeys are typically slaughtered between 9 and 24 weeks of age, and can reach 20lbs in such a short period. The use of selective breeding and antibiotics has led to these faster growth rates and modern turkeys live shorter lives, suffering skeletal deformations and broken bones caused by the sheer weight that they must hold prior to their premature deaths. In addition, they are packed tightly in covered sheds, which constrains their movements, causing them to go crazy and start pecking, clawing and cannibalizing each other – of course, to avoid this kind of a mess, their beaks are chopped off in advance, without anesthesia.
These overcrowded conditions contribute to friction injuries, including “breast blisters” and foot lesions from standing in bodily waste and fluids constantly. Crowding results in ammonia and bacteria build up and when inhaled by the birds, causes respiratory infections. These conditions lead to a 10% premature mortality rate in commercial turkey farms. Even “free-range” labeled turkeys are subject to the same overcrowding, except that some of their living conditions are not as enclosed.
This is the truth behind your Thanksgiving meal –- don’t let tradition be an excuse for your indifference, when there are plenty of other ways to gorge yourself this Thanksgiving. Tofurky, Field Roast and Gardien offer meatless turkey substitutes to make things easier for your non-vegan/vegetarian relatives. Gardien has an extensive recipe section using their products from celebrity chef; Tal Ronnen. Or check out Veg News’ extensive Veg Thanksgiving action-plan, which has all the info you will need to make your Thanksgiving celebration free of unnecessary cruelty.
Make a turkey thankful this thanksgiving and give turkey meat a miss. Happy Thanksgiving Friends!