Insights and Inspiration for a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful You


Insights and Inspiration

For a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful You

Home » Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving by keeping the turkey off the table 

Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving by keeping the turkey off the table 

by John Di Leonardo
0 comment
Yes, you can celebrate a cruelty-free Thanksgiving, leaving animals off your plate. Feast instead on a buffet of plant-based options, such as Tofurky, Gardein, Field Roast, etc.

Turkeys are gentle and intelligent animals who, like dogs, enjoy having their bellies rubbed and light up when their favorite person is in the room. Like us, they appreciate music, with which they’ll often loudly sing along. In nature, they’ll fly 55 miles an hour, run 35 miles an hour, and live up to 10 years. 

However, the 46 million turkeys who will be killed for Thanksgiving this year in the US never knew that life. Like chickens, turkeys raised and killed in the US have no federal legal protection. On factory farms, they’re kept in cramped and filthy sheds by the thousands and killed when they’re still babies: only 3 to 5 months old. Driven psychotic by their harsh realities, they self-mutilate and are driven to cannibalism.

Rather than improving conditions, farmers resort to severing, without painkillers, the ends of their toes, their snoods, the long protuberance on their faces they use to show affection for one another, and even the ends of their beaks, which are filled with nerve endings, and they use like we use our fingers, to minimize the damage they can do to their product.

In their short lives, these turkeys will have never known even the simple pleasures of parenthood, built a nest, or even felt the sun on their backs before they’re hung upside down and have their throats slit.  

We do not need to support this cruel tradition in order to celebrate Thanksgiving, which is an official holiday in the USA celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November for the bounty of harvest nature provided, also celebrated in half a dozen other nations for the same reason but on different dates, or any other holiday.

Ahead of Thanksgiving, my organization Humane Long Island practices Anuvrat, or small vows (as advocated by Indian Jain guru Acharya Tulsi), to honor these turkeys by not only leaving them off our plates but asking slaughterhouses to spare them. Last year, we convinced two New York City live slaughter markets to spare the lives of three one-month-old turkeys who would otherwise have been destined for slaughter as well as rescued two turkeys found wandering the streets. We also partnered with PETA to distribute 1,000 delicious turkey-free meals that both turkeys and our communities can be thankful for. This year, we hope to rescue and give out even more. 

So, this week I invite you to celebrate a cruelty-free Thanksgiving, leaving animals off your plate and supporting your local indigenous or animal welfare organizations. With a buffet of plant-based options, such as Tofurky, Gardein, Field Roast, and more, available at local grocery stores, it has never been easier to pursue a kind and compassionate, animal-free lifestyle. For help, or to join us in our efforts to create a more humane Long Island, please contact us at

President Biden at the turkey pardon ceremony at the White House last year. (Photo courtesy The Hill)

The Editor adds: The White House has an annual tradition of turkey pardon on Thanksgiving Day. President Joe Biden pardoned two turkeys named Chocolate and Chip last year and called the ceremony a “wonderful Thanksgiving tradition.”

It is often stated that President Lincoln’s 1863 clemency to a turkey recorded in an 1865 dispatch by a White House reporter was the origin of the pardoning ceremony, although this is likely apocryphal. Wikipedia says that turkeys gifted by private citizens to the President were usually slaughtered and eaten (with some exceptions) prior to the 1970s when it became standard practice to spare the turkey.

A news story in Newsday published last week ( details how some people on Long Island give turkeys foster homes. Virginia Scudder is one of them. She adopted her turkey, named Mega Mort, after seeing a Facebook post about him during the pandemic from another local animal lover saying she could no longer care for him. Scudder already had roosters, chickens, and ducks at the time.

John Di Leonardo cautions that to keep a turkey, you need a big yard (one acre at least), a predator-proof and climate-proof pen, and know whether your neighborhood is zoned for fowl.

Related Articles