In Canada, we already celebrated our Thanksgiving in October. However, I want to take this opportunity to wish all my southern neighbours a Happy Thanksgiving… or should I say Thanksliving.
While Americans gather together with family and friends on this day of thanks and bounteous food, I think it’s important to consider just where this food came from. The first thing people associate with Thanksgiving is, in most cases, Turkey. In fact, you’ve probably heard or even said “Happy Turkey Day!” yourself at some point.
Turkeys, in my experience, are extremely friendly and intelligent birds. I happened to meet some on my visit to Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary last year. They came right up to me with warm greetings when I arrived. I was bowled over by how friendly and sociable they were. Not just with each other but with people!
After our visit, I was touched by my experience with the turkeys and disturbed that the the word turkey is almost synonymous with food on Thanksgiving. If only people knew more about turkeys then they might not be so quick to eat them on Thanksgiving.
Thankfully, every year Farm Sanctuary celebrates a turkey-free Thanksgiving feast and encourages people to Adopt-A-Turkey. Through this program people can save a turkey by sponsoring it with a one time donation of $30. Farm Sanctuary has rescued over 1,000 turkeys since 1996. This program also seeks to educate people on the situation facing turkeys today such as factory farming conditions and facts about turkeys as a species.
AWESOME TURKEY FACTS!
National shelter director of Farm Sanctuary, Susie Coston, shares her top 10 facts about turkeys:
Susie Coston’s Top 10 Fascinating Facts about Farm Sanctuary’s Rescued Turkeys
- Between 1965 and 2000, the weight of the average turkey raised for food in the U.S. increased by 57 percent, from an average of 18 pounds to an average of 28.2 pounds, preventing commercially-raised turkeys from performing their natural behaviors and causing them to suffer from crippling foot and leg problems.
- Wild turkeys, who weigh between 8–18 pounds, are able to fly up to 55 miles an hour, but turkeys raised for meat on factory farms are so large they can’t even perch. When turkeys arrive at Farm Sanctuary’s shelters, they attempt to perch and even fly until they are too large to do so.
- Industrial turkeys’ unnatural weight causes many health problems, including heart disease, heart attack, and arthritis, at as young as one month of age. At our sanctuaries, we have to feed our turkeys rescued from industrial farms a restricted diet to ensure that they will live long, healthy lives, otherwise they will gain even more weight than the averages listed previously.
- Turkeys recognize each other by their unique voices. Researchers have identified nearly 30 distinct vocalizations in wild turkeys.
- Like dogs and cats, turkeys are highly intelligent and emotional animals who show great affection to others and form strong social bonds with other turkeys in their flock that last a lifetime.
- Turkeys have excellent geography skills and can learn the specific details of an area of more than 1,000 acres.
- On factory farms, turkeys frequently have the ends of their beaks and toes cut off without anesthesia — practices know as debeaking and detoeing — to prevent them from injuring one another as they are crowded by the thousands into dark, filthy warehouses.
- Completely unlike their wild ancestors not only in terms of physique but also in hue, most commercial turkeys are totally white — the natural bronze color selectively bred out of them to eliminate uneven pigment colorations — because of consumer preference for even flesh tones.
- Catering to consumer preferences for “white meat,” the industry has selectively bred turkeys to have abnormally large breasts. This anatomical manipulation makes it impossible for male turkeys to naturally mate with females, eliminating these birds’ ability to reproduce without artificial insemination. As a result, artificial insemination is now the sole means of reproduction on factory farms, where breeder birds are confined for months on end.
- Turkeys, like all animals, love life and want nothing more than to live free from fear and pain. Yet turkeys, along with other poultry, are not protected by the federal Humane Slaughter Act. Every year, more than 46 million turkeys are killed, frequently without first being stunned, for Thanksgiving dinners.
(Taken from Farm Sanctuary’s November 23, 2010 press release.)
For earth and animal-friendly turkey substitutes for your Thanksgiving table click here!
When I went to visit Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary this past October, I was saddened to find out that the turkeys that had wholeheartedly greeted me in 2010 had passed. Turkeys are bred to have large breasts as this is the part of them that is in highest demand for non-veggies. As a result, turkeys that are lucky enough to live out their lives end up having heart problems among other issues. I was told that something called the “flip” happens. The “flip” is when their breasts become too large and they flip over on to them and die. When I heard this was the fate of my beautiful friends, I was truly upset. I had really looked forward to seeing them again.
So on this day of thanks, let’s take a second and be thankful for all the creatures on this planet. Let’s instead eat some Tofurky with mushroom gravy while we honour all those we are grateful for.
Here’s to the turkeys! What an amazing bird. If you get a chance to interact or hang out with one, I would highly recommend it. Happy Thanksliving!