I am not all about that baste.
Thanksgiving and turkey are so closely associated it’s nearly impossible to think of one without the other. It’s become the star of the day, whether it’s just gigantic, deep-fried, grilled, or even burned to a crisp. Everyone’s talking about the turkey. This year, I ask you to reconsider including the turkey in your celebrations. This is not a judgement of you, your family, or your traditions. I will not be glaring or wagging my finger at anyone who buys or eats it. I will happily share my holiday table regardless of what you’re eating. Your food is your decision, and truly none of my business. So all I want to do is provide a few good reasons to change things up.
1. For the animals
When you’re sitting down at the table surrounded by family, friends, and dishes upon dishes of great recipes, it’s easy to forget where all that food came from. But I have bad news. More likely than not, your turkey came from a factory farm.
At these overcrowded farms, these large birds are packed in tightly together, with little room to move around. These overcrowded conditions leads the birds to become stressed, leading to pecking and fighting. To combat this, workers cut off the beaks and toes of the animals, without anesthetic. The pain of eating with their beaks removed can be so severe that many starve to death. These birds have also been genetically engineered, so over the years they have doubled in size and grow twice as fast, which leads to a wide range of health problems.
At the slaughterhouse, the turkeys are hung by their feet from a moving rail, along which their throats are cut by a mechanical blade. Some of the birds are missed by the knife, so the still-conscious ones are boiled alive when submerged in the scalding tank of boiling water that removes their feathers.
Turkeys are smart animals with personalities that vary as much as cats and dogs. They love having their feathers petted. They become distressed when removed from their flock.
This is about animal rights, and the treatment of innocent creatures for our own gain.
2. For the people
It is no secret that working conditions at factory farms and slaughterhouses are dismal, dangerous, and border on a human rights violation. The fast lines, dirty and slippery floors, and the lack of appropriate safety gear make animal processing one of the most dangerous jobs you could have.
What is mentioned less than the physically dangerous conditions are the serious mental and psychological side effects of working in a slaughterhouse. Working in a facility that not only kills (most of the time inhumanely) innocent animals, but also has disturbed employees that torture and abuse animals before killing them, has profound negative effects on a person’s emotions and mental state.
Workers have described the animals, despite all of their previous abuse, coming up to the person to nuzzle them, hoping to be petted. This same worker is tasked with killing the animal seconds later. This teaches the worker they cannot form any sort of emotional bond with the animal, leading to a mental disconnect. The consequences of this can include domestic abuse, drug/alcohol abuse, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The increased demand for turkeys/meat at Thanksgiving and other holidays leads to more hours, less stable and safe working conditions, and a higher level emotional stress. This is about both animal rights and human rights.
3. For the Earth
The impact of the meat industry on the environment is one that could only be completely covered in a long book. So I’ll just summarize into a few points:
- Animal grazing (for free-range animals not raised in factory farms) occupies 26% of earth’s ice-free land surface
- Meat production consumes an extreme amount of water. For example, it takes 4,418,541 gallons of water to produce 1 ton of beef, compared to 35,134 gallons of water to produce 1 ton of potatoes.
- Animal waste can contaminate and damage aquatic ecosystems, rivers, and streams, which could no longer be used for irrigation, drinking, or really any other needs.
- Livestock accounts for 14.5%-18% of greenhouse gas emissions
4. For your health
Again, I’d need an entire book (and several months) to go over in detail all the reasons eating less meat is good for your health. But here are some important facts:
- “An estimated 70 percent of all diseases, including one-third of all cancers, are related to diet. A vegetarian diet reduces the risk for chronic degenerative diseases such as obesity, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain types of cancer including colon, breast, prostate, stomach, lung and esophageal cancer.“
- Eating no meat or less meat lowers your bad cholesterol, weight, and risk of heart disease.
- Switching to a vegetarian diet can add 13 healthy years to your life.
- By avoiding meat, you reduce your risk of food-borne illness, as meat, poultry, fish, and seafood is frequently involved.
5. For the food
Not including a turkey, or any other meat, in your Thanksgiving dinner might bring about some shock initially. But there are so many other wonderful dishes and substitutes, that you will find you don’t miss the meat at all. Removing the turkey lets all the other tasty main courses, sides, desserts, and their unique flavors shine. And as a bonus, you will most likely feel better after eating, and your dinner will be less expensive!
The following recipes will make you say “what turkey?”
Hippie Loaf from Happy Herbivore
1 Hour Vegan Shepherd’s Pie from Minimalist Baker
Veggie Chili & Beer Stew from Pink Troll Kitchen (hey, that’s me!)
Butternut Squash Alfredo Shells from Gimme Some Oven
Roasted Fall Vegetable & Ricotta Pizza from Martha Stewart
Spaghetti Squash Caprese Bake from Pink Troll Kitchen
Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Thanksgiving Stuffing from Choosing Raw
Asparagus, Tomato, and Spinach Frittata from Real Food Fast
And as a bonus, one of my newest recipes, Vegan & Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Gravy
(Note: I did not include photos of the animal processing facilities due to their graphic nature. If you are interested in learning more about animal cruelty and working conditions, visit the links below or check out a number of documentaries on the subject. I recommend Food, Inc.)