How is it that the Thanksgiving turkey – a bird whose morbidly engineered body: painfully detoed and debeaked without anesthesia, forced to live in one sq-foot of space, pumped full of drugs and hormones – is somehow turned into the centerpiece of gratitude? An individual whose life is not considered valid. How is it that wanting to help animals is seen as “radical”, yet the processes by which this dead body arrived is not? How is it that talking about the truth of turkey farming is avoided like the plague, yet putting the product of that truth in our mouths is so enthusiastically embraced?
It seems like every week there’s a new undercover exposé documenting shocking cruelty that is business-as-usual on farms across America. Both the sheer quantity of these investigations and the legislative efforts to criminalize the actual documenting of these facilities makes it clear that these conditions are widespread. Compassion Over Killing released an investigation of a turkey facility in Minnesota where filthy and cruel conditions make it difficult to be thankful this holiday:
Every year almost 300 million turkeys are slaughtered in the US. Of that, 46 million are specifically killed for Thanksgiving. Having been bred to grow at alarming rates (twice as fast and twice as large as their ancestors, often causing heart attacks), commercial turkeys are slaughtered after only 14-18 weeks. Many of them die of exposure during transport to the slaughterhouse, and when they arrive, many are not properly stunned prior to slaughter. Turkeys and other poultry are specifically excluded from the Humane Slaughter Act, which requires that animals be stunned prior to slaughter. Finally, as the birds who have not been stunned avoid the automated blades slitting their throats, they are often boiled alive in scalding tanks. As much as we’d like them to be true, our delusions of these birds having come from peaceful, Utopian farms must be shattered.
Even “free-range” turkeys are no better off. In an industry where maximum output and profit are king, it is no surprise that suffering by individuals who fall between the cracks is so easily overlooked. This is just one example of how small “humane” farmers slaughter their turkeys:
It’s difficult to rationalize eating turkeys in a symbolic gesture of thankfulness. The scientific community recently re-wrote the book on bird-brains, revealing how incredibly intelligent turkeys and chickens actually are, shaming the community that capitalized on their perceived stupidity.
Consider what historians have recently discovered – that Spanish-speaking, Catholic settlers dined on bean soup with the Timucua Indians almost a half-century prior to the famed 1621 Plymouth celebration (which incidentally did not have a single factory farmed Turkey at the table – and no cranberry or potatoes). So how is it that 500 years later, this holiday has become a showcase of nothing but Turkey? It is know as “Turkey Day”. So can Thanksgiving be the same without a dead Turkey?