It’s a Girl!

Kate Blacker

Meet my new edition, Rhonda.  She was rescued by Farm Sanctuary and lives in upstate New York.  I think she has my eyes.  You, too, can sponsor a turkey just in time for the holidays.

I admit it is a bit cliché to talk about turkey cruelty on Thanksgiving.  But it is also quite an exercise in gratitude to reflect on the life and death of a Thanksgiving turkey.  I am thankful for not having my toes chopped off.  I am thankful no one will trim off a piece of my face or neck (unless I elect to have such work done and I don’t mind paying the taxes).  I am grateful that my eyes and lungs do not burn in agony as I live out the rest of my days breathing in ammonia and standing in my own waste (and the waste of everyone around me).  I am not so overdosed with antibiotics and hormones that my little legs break underneath the immense weight of my unnaturally oversized body.

Yes, our Thanksgiving turkeys are mutilated at birth and tortured to death.  Their lives are replete with pain, misery and even sexual abuse.  I have a lot to be thankful for when I compare my life to that of the turkey.  And don’t be deceived; the life of a natural/organic turkey is no better.  You can check out some “free range” turkey farm pictures here.

Maybe we don’t need to kill turkeys in order to get the most out of Thanksgiving this year.  Maybe we can capture the spirit of Thanksgiving by having compassion for one another and by treating everyone with a little kindness.

Talking Turkey and the Sanctimony of American Slaughter

Christine Saenz

It’s that time of year again. A time when 45 million turkeys are slaughtered, stuffed, and feasted upon for Thanksgiving dinners across the U.S. According to PETA and other sources, this 45 million makes up 1/6 of the number of turkeys killed each year in America. While many animal rights groups will be imploring President Obama to pardon all turkeys this season, you shouldn’t have to worry about a protest stampeding across your lawn if you partake in this gluttonous “tradition.” Apparently the protestors and news media outlets will be thoroughly preoccupied with the Hindu Gadhimai festival in Nepal, where, every 5 years, 200,000+ animals are ritualistically sacrificed to bring peace and prosperity to devotees.

Last week, an organizing committee member defending the ritual stated, “We will not stop this centuries-old tradition now. This is our religion, belief and tradition and we will continue with it no matter what.” Sound familiar? The 45 million turkeys slaughtered in the U.S. this year will die in the name of our own time-honored beliefs and traditions. On one end of the world, hundreds of thousands of buffaloes, pigs, sheep, birds, and goats (to name just a few) will have their throats slit by priests and their carcasses distributed to devotees after the festival. In our own country, hundreds of millions of turkeys will live their lives in tightly-packed, windowless “houses,” hung upside down in shackles (alive), mercilessly slaughtered, and decorated on dining room tables.

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Turkey Pardons

Much has been said about the ritual of Thanksgiving and its accompanying slaughter of hundreds of millions of defenseless birds, most of who lived short lives of unrelenting and abject misery.  I have little to add to what’s already out there except my own indignation and sorrow.

But I do have something to say about the Thanksgiving ritual, particularly the embedded legal contradiction in the practice (discussed by Luis below) of pardoning turkeys.  To pardon means “to release (a person) from further punishment for a crime.”  At Thanksgiving, however, the concept of the pardon gets up-ended.  The turkeys supposedly petitioning for clemency have committed no wrong.  Their lives consist of brutal mistreatment with slaughter soon to follow (the latter, I might add, will occur devoid of any of the protections of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act since under Department of Agriculture regulations, birds are not “animals” and thus not legally entitled to a merciful death).  If anything, egregious crimes have been wrought upon these birds.  Yet, every year, one or two are selected at random and “pardoned.”  This ritual amounts to transferring the guilt of the perpetrators on to the victims and then forgiving a token few of them in a bizarre act of self-absolution by proxy.

The pardon no doubt is supposed to demonstrate mercy and humor but in my view, it demonstrates neither (case in point: Sarah Palin’s now infamous video ).  It rather reveals a deep societal discomfort with the fact that a holiday that celebrates life’s blessings and an industry devoted to torture and death are conjoined and mutually dependent.

David Cassuto