Our Thanksgiving ritual in the U.S. is rather strange. We gather with family and friends around the harvest season to share a meal and to express thanks and gratitude for the good things we have. Ironically, the centerpiece of this celebration in homes across America is the carcass of a dead bird who had been abused on a factory farm and then killed for the holiday.
Beginning in 1986, Farm Sanctuary has promoted a different kind of holiday tradition through our Adopt-A-Turkey Project. We celebrate our connection with other animals, rather than our ability to dominate, kill and consume them. Saving turkeys, rather than eating them, is a better way to observe Thanksgiving. At Farm Sanctuary, we will enjoy time with turkeys as companions, rather than as commodities, at celebrations at our sanctuaries in Watkins Glen, New York and Orland, California this Saturday. We’re also hosting a benefit to help raise awareness and promote compassion at Tavern on the Green in New York City on Sunday.
In his brilliant new book, "Eating Animals," acclaimed author Jonathan Safran Foer writes: "If this entire book could be decanted into a single question … it might be this: Should we serve turkey at Thanksgiving?" Foer cogently advances Mahatma Gandhi’s observation that "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." How we relate to other animals, especially those who are at our mercy, says volumes about who we are as a people.
Abraham Lincoln established our national Thanksgiving holiday in 1863 during our country’s bloody civil war to "heal the wounds of the nation" and to restore "peace, harmony, tranquility and Union." By putting the carcasses of animals who’ve endured cruelty and violence at the center of our tables, we undermine the initial aims of this national holiday. Fortunately, eating turkeys on Thanksgiving isn’t required, and we can change our habits. If you haven’t done so already, please start a new Thanksgiving tradition, and save a turkey instead of serving one.