Is there a better option than wasting countless turkeys every year?

A push toward an environmentally sustainable Thanksgiving


Art by: Michelle Vu

Madelyne Cascione and Zoey Mortazavi

When it comes to Thanksgiving, our priority tends to be the gathering itself and the connections it brings about. Ask just about anyone, and they’ll say that Thanksgiving is about family. This holiday has been engraved in our heads from elementary school, centering around the nature of giving thanks. But what about the way the food on our plates is treated.

Each year at Thanksgiving, an estimated 46 million turkeys are slaughtered, many of whom are not properly anesthetized, hung and shackled by their legs in processing plants while their necks are sliced open. When turkeys are not properly stunned, they sometimes miss the blade and get put in the scalding tanks meant to loosen their feathers as they’re fully conscious. Is all this torture worth it when 64% of Americans are willing to skip serving the bird, and 30% have already stopped it? In search for an environmentally sustainable and morally defensible Thanksgiving, we should turn away from turkey as our designated main course.

In pursuit of an environmentally sustainable Thanksgiving, people should think about alternative ways to enjoy the holiday meal by focusing on all the other glorious food we tend to serve instead of turkey. 

Factory farming is an epidemic that has infected many manufacturers that sell the food that we swear is the best we’ve ever had. Factory farms calculate how close to death they can keep animals without killing them. Corporations abuse their birds because they hold near-absolute power over their livestock. 

Another reason turkeys can be cut out of our Thanksgiving dinner is because of the diseases that are brought along with the bird, those that are overlooked at the factory farms. In “Eating Animals,” author Jonathan Safran Foer explains that there are certain “zoonotic diseases” that are commonly spread between animals and humans. These diseases are germs, like bacteria, fungi and parasites. Factory farms don’t care about the state that the turkeys are in, whether they are healthy or not. Their only goal is to make as much money as possible off consumerism, especially around the holidays. 

Foer also discovered that inspectors only look at these birds for “two seconds” before they move on to the next turkey hanging by their legs. Foer brought to his readers’ attention the many health concerns that have been overlooked like that “feces are now classified as cosmetic blemishes.” Poultry has been the leading cause of foodborne illnesses, which creates the concept of stomach flu. What we believe to be the stomach flu is a fabricated euphemism for the diseases we ingest in food from ill-treated factory farms.

When finishing the gruesomely informative “Eating Animals,” there is a realization that there’s more to the change in the consumption of turkeys. The gore in this book makes us want to turn our heads to meat entirely, just because of its persuasive storytelling. By far, the best option is to get rid of turkeys on the dinner table entirely, but for some people, the illusion of a ‘meatless’ Thanksgiving just doesn’t make sense. So I decided to find Vegan Turkey alternatives; which resulted from a quick Google search about meatless Thanksgiving options. If people could just become open-minded to the idea of alternatives, we would be able to drastically change the number of turkeys we kill each year. 

Some such options are Vegan Lasagna with Roasted Vegetables, Vegan Pot Pie with Herby Biscuits, Field Roast Celebration Roast, Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie With Parsnip & Potato Mash and Sweet Potato & Chickpea Cakes. 

I’m not insinuating a push to become a vegetarian just because I think turkey could be passed up instead of being put on the dinner table. However, I beg readers to consider all the other options that can be made if we weren’t so attached to the traditional fare. 

It is of the utmost importance to pay attention to the turkey packages you buy this year if you choose to go down that path. Consider researching before buying, looking for companies that are slow-growers and free-range, which implies that they take more time to grow their turkeys and let them live healthier lives.

Foer’s words have resonated with me, encouraging me to instill the thought that “if nothing matters, then there’s nothing to save.” The only way to make a change, even if it’s something small, is to stress the importance of what you care for. Any help, for that matter, can create so much of a difference, even if it’s looking for other options to center your Thanksgiving dinner around.