Turkeys: not so thankful for Thanksgiving


author: christine bueno | contributor

 jeremy davis

Thanksgiving largely revolves around the consumption of food – turkey in particular. Turkeys have become a symbol for the holiday, as we can see by the artistic renditions of the “hand turkey” done by children this time of year. However, as pointed out by poet Shel Silverstein, we do not exactly stop to see Thanksgiving from a turkey’s point of view. 

It seems absurd to most of us who have grown up eating meat to even consider a turkey’s feelings; after all, they’re unintelligent and don’t feel the same way we do, right? Dr. Ian Duncan, professor of Poultry Ethology at University of Guelph, would disagree. In an interview with United Poultry Concerns, Duncan stated that turkeys suffer from fear and stress much like any other mammal. Duncan went on to explain that they also demonstrate intelligence through their complex social relationships. You can read more about his work on UPC online. 

Knowing what Duncan does, it is harder to separate the meat on our plates from the sentient being behind it. It would perhaps be easier to stomach if the animals suffered a less painful death, but the reality of factory farming and battery cages makes this unlikely. Most turkeys die in pain and fear, and this is not a cause for celebration.
To state the obvious, I’m vegan. Because I have the privilege of making choices with what I eat, I avoid any product that comes from an animal. I recognize it is not realistic for everyone; typically, unless you have money for the ready-made meals, being vegan requires at least being able to cook, which simply isn’t feasible for many students. However, it’s definitely worth exploring if you have access to a grocery store and a stove. It saved me money, personally—a bag of lentils can be enough for two weeks worth of protein and is eight dollars less than a pack of meat.  

Now, you don’t have to sacrifice enjoying the holiday season in the name of ethics—there are quite a few tasty vegan options available. I’m the only vegan in my family, but my mom substituted butter with vegan margarine in my favourite dressing recipe and it turned out just the same. Mashed potatoes are another easy one to “veganize”, as you can just use almond milk and vegan margarine instead of butter and milk.  

Admittedly, turkey is a little trickier to imitate. I hear Tofurky is a good option available at many stores. In my family, my mom makes a turkey loaf from lentils and poultry seasoning. I like this option better because not only is it delicious, but it’s also a lot less pricey than imitation meats (although it’s undoubtedly more work—I’m grateful to have the most accommodating mom ever). 

For Thanksgivings to come, I encourage you have fun experimenting with different alternatives to meat. Even if you never go vegan or vegetarian, it feels good to do a bit of good on an otherwise doom-laden day for turkeys. Everyone knows that dressing is the best part of Thanksgiving dinner, anyway, so who needs turkey?  


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