October 05, 2018 - GruntVegan
The holiday is marred by the brutal killing of millions of turkeys only to end up on a carnist's dinner plate.
Turkeys are sentient, intelligent animals who are social, enjoy having their feathers stroked and who show a preference for different kinds of music and sounds. In nature, turkeys can fly 55 miles an hour, run 18 miles an hour, and live up to 10 years, describes PETA in "20 Turkey Facts That’ll Blow Your Mind".
But the Thanksgiving holiday marks a dark time for millions of turkeys. Around 45 million, or 18% of turkeys raised on American farms, will be killed for their flesh, according to statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Another 22 million will suffer a similar fate at Christmas.
Turkeys, like most animals raised and killed for food, suffer horribly on factory farms from the moment they’re born until they’re violently killed. Most turkeys spend their entire lives without ever setting foot outdoors. They are genetically manipulated to grow extremely fast in order to achieve “market weight” at a young age, and are slaughtered at a fraction of their natural lifespan.
This Thanksgiving, PETA's I'm ME Not MEAT, See The Individual, Go Vegan campaign is making some inroads. As more and more people adopt a vegan lifestyle, old carnist traditions are butting heads with a new non-violent way of celebrating the holiday. "Inherited traditions can't be changed overnight", according to a Windsor marketing professor, in response to the recent placement of a PETA billboard in his town.
Amber Canavan, a senior campaigner for PETA, said they have heard from people "who are interested in taking the bird off the table and replacing it with one of the great vegan roasts that are out there" every time a billboard goes up. However, others are more skeptical. It might be enough to generate discussion but "you're not going to dismantle someone's inherited traditions in terms of consumption purchase overnight," said Vincent Georgie.
Turkeys are not the only victims.
The walls of an industrial turkey "plant" has its own miseries for humans working the line, in conditions that are tantamount to modern day slavery.
Slate Magazine and the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute joined forces to provide an insider report as to what goes on inside a Butterball turkey plant, in the town of Huntsville, Arkansas.
One worker reported that for his first day on the line "he was given a knife and gloves and told to stand at a station, where 47 dead and defeathered turkeys rushed past each minute". "The pace was relentless: 1,410 birds an hour, more than 11,000 a shift." And it gets worse during the Thanksgiving rush or what industry insiders call the "fresh" or la fresca in Spanish, when the birds are sold "fresh" not frozen. During this time, the line speed increases and plant employees can be expected to work 50 days straight to meet demand. In addition, the sustained, relentless 'processing' of turkeys causes carpel tunnel syndrome, aching, swollen hands, as well as other injuries.
The Butterball facility just outside the limits of Huntsville, AZ (population: 2,346), one of three in the state, is described by Slate as set back on a quiet road that meanders through rolling hills, just inside the limits of town, surrounded by barbed-wire fence.
For every family that decides to move to a plant-based celebration of Thanksgiving, the life of one turkey can be spared.