Since becoming a vegetarian, Thanksgiving dinner has lacked the most iconic component--turkey. On Thanksgiving, 46 million turkeys are consumed each year. Eating turkey has become a popular American tradition on Thanksgiving--in fact Alexander Hamilton wrote that "No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day." Because of this long tradition, the fact that 46 million turkeys are killed and eaten each year for Thanksgiving may seem normal and not shocking, but after I found myself researching about turkeys--it became upsetting.
Turkeys are extremely intelligent animals who, like dogs and cats, are playful individuals with unique personalities. They are capable of developing social bonds and affection towards one another. Additionally, they have other human like traits--such as their curiosity and habit of exploring. Turkeys are compassionate animals who love socializing with humans and often become protective over other turkeys, with whom they feel emotionally bonded with. Their intelligence has always been noted--most famously by Benjamin Franklin “birds of courage” who believed the turkey should be named the national bird as of the United States, rather than the bald eagle. Perhaps he cherished and recognized the brightness and true beauty of turkeys, that many Americans are blind to.
Because of these traits and the terrible fates of many turkeys, the Farm Sanctuary--a refuge for rescued and abused farm animals--holds its "Celebration for the Turkeys" around Thanksgiving time. This celebration occurs at all three locations, one in New York state and two others in California. Instead of eating turkeys, it is held to honor them. Many people view turkeys as food on their plates, but this celebration focuses on what a majority of Americans don't consider or think about. “Instead of having Thanksgiving dinner be a turkey as a meal, we’re actually celebrating the life of a turkey,” Susie Coston, Farm Sanctuary’s national shelter director, told The Huffington Post. “The turkeys are the guests of honor, and not the food.”
One of the main events at the Celebration for the Turkey, includes a "Feeding of the Turkeys Ceremony" where attendees watch the turkeys enjoy a delicious feast of pumpkin pie, squash, cranberries, and kale salad. People are also invited to meet other farm animals around the sanctuary, including the turkeys. Next on the itinerary are guest speakers, who aim to educate about the animal protection movement. And one of the last events of the evening is a four course vegan feast. This feast includes vegan creations from "Local Arugula and Bibb Lettuce Salad" to a "Tofurky Roast". This event costs $85 per person, and is an extremely limited and currently sold out event.
The Farm Sanctuary started something so unique and different than any ordinary Thanksgiving celebration. It's goal to educate people on the true nature and personality of turkeys is evident with the thorough itinerary of this event. Young children are allowed to come and meet the turkeys, and encouraged to interact with the animals in order to realize their calm behaviors. I would be so lucky to attend this event one day, to see the happiness and joy that these turkeys experience on Thanksgiving--which contradicts with the ones sitting on the plates in the middle of a dining room table. But despite this, it still makes me warm inside to know that some turkeys are savoring their life while eating pumpkin pie.