More than 45 million turkeys are killed each year for just one single day. What an awful way to show thankfulness, by causing massive suffering. This year, reconsider what’s on your Thanksgiving plate and choose to celebrate the holiday by honoring life and kindness, instead of cruelty and death.
1. Rampant animal abuse
The honest truth is: If you purchase turkey, you are contributing to some of the worst animal abuse there is. There is so much documentation and undercover footage of the abuse that it is undeniable how rampant and horrifying it is. Workers routinely stomp on turkeys, punch them, kick them, beat them with pipes and boards, twist their necks repeatedly, and slam them against walls. One worker even bragged about shoving a broomstick down a turkey’s throat.
Life on factory farms is hell and by purchasing turkey, you are not only condoning, but also directly funding this abuse. Take responsibility for your actions. Just because it’s out of sight, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Choose not to support this cruelty.
2. Modern turkeys are Frankensteins
Turkeys are drugged and genetically manipulated to grow as large as possible as quickly as possible to increase profits. In 1960, the average turkey raised for meat weighed 17 pounds. Today, he or she weighs 29 pounds. Turkeys are now so overgrown they cannot even reproduce naturally; instead, all the turkeys born in the United States today on factory farms are conceived through artificial insemination.
Their unnaturally large size makes it difficult for turkeys to walk and some even cripple under their immense weight. The crippled animals can not stand or walk to get food or water. The rapid growth also causes many turkeys to die from organ failure or heart attacks before they are even 6 months old. According to an investigative report in the Wall Street Journal on the miserable conditions on turkey farms, “It’s common in a rearing house to find a dead bird surrounded by four others whose hearts failed after they watched the first one ‘fall back and go into convulsions, with its wings flapping wildly.'”
3. Nearly 1 million turkeys and chickens are boiled alive each year
According to the Washington Post, nearly 1 million chickens and turkeys are unintentionally boiled alive every year in U.S. slaughterhouses, where fast-moving lines often fail to kill the birds before they are dropped into the scalding tank. Employees struggle to properly shackle thrashing birds by their ankles on the constantly moving “disassembly line.” When birds are not properly secured, or are improperly stunned, they miss the automated blade which slits their throats, and are still alive when they enter the scalder.
4. The filth. Oh, the filth!
By the time the birds are sent to slaughter, as much as 80% of the litter on the floor of the shed is their own urine and feces. This results in a buildup of ammonia, causing turkeys to develop ulcerated feet and painful burns on their legs and bodies. The air in these sheds is so polluted with feces and ammonia that most birds suffer from painful respiratory diseases and eye disorders, including swelling of the eyelids, discharge, clouding and ulceration of the cornea, and even blindness.
There is a high rate of viral and bacterial infections from the filth, and sick or injured birds frequently languish unnoticed. When suffering birds are found, they are typically killed via “cervical dislocation or the crushing of the head or vertebrae by striking the birds against a wall or with an object,” says Mercy for Animals.
But the filth isn’t just bad for the birds, it’s bad for you as well. Consumer Reports’ researchers recently tested 257 brands of raw ground turkey meat and found that 90% of the tested turkey meat had at least one of these five bacteria: enterococcus, Escherichia coli (E. coli), staphylococcus aureus, salmonella, and campylobacter. All five bacteria can cause illness and be fatal in some cases. And all five bacteria are associated with fecal contamination. In other words, there is feces on the meat.
5. De-beaking, de-toeing, and de-snooding
Turkeys are crammed so tightly into sheds that each bird only has about 2.5 square feet of space. To keep the birds from injuring and killing each other in such crowded, stressful conditions, parts of the turkeys’ toes and beaks are cut off, as are the males’ snoods (the flap of skin under the chin). All of this is done without pain relievers and the birds do experience immense pain during this.
6. “Free Range” does NOT mean humane
According to the USDA, the terms “free range” and “free roaming” can be used to describe animals that “are allowed access to the outside for 51% of their lives”. It is completely legal (and common) for this “access to the outside” to be a single, small door in the corner of a huge shed that leads to a concrete slab. There are no requirements on the actual amount of time spent outdoors or the quality and size of the outdoor area. For this reason, contrary to popular belief, “free-range” facilities are generally no more than large sheds in which tens of thousands of turkeys are crammed together, living in their own waste. Their beaks and toes are still clipped, they are still fed growth hormones and their legs buckle under their unnaturally large weight, and they are still slaughtered by being hung, flailing, upside down, having their throat slit, and then being scalded in boiling water.
Do not be fooled into thinking that turkeys with marketing buzz words on their wrapper lived better lives than those without the fancy labels.
7. Turkeys are gentle, loving, creatures
In natural conditions, turkey hens are devoted mothers who care diligently for their babies. They form friendships and emotional bonds. Much like dogs, turkeys love to be petted and to play with their turkey friends.
Many turkeys, even those who have known great cruelty at human hands, will happily sit for hours having their feathers stroked. Beatrice (below), a former factory farm turkey rescued by Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, loves to snuggle, despite having been mutilated by humans as a baby.
Susie Coston, who has worked with rescued farmed animals, including many turkeys, for nearly twenty years, writes: “Prevalent in our society are some deep misconceptions about turkeys: that they lack intelligence, that they don’t have personalities, that there can be no kinship between humans and these animals who appear so very different from us. No one who met this bright, charismatic bird could doubt that turkeys are individuals with minds, feelings, and unique characters – individuals with whom we can have connections, individuals with whom we can share friendship.”
8. Thanksgiving is about thankfulness, not meat
Remember that the intention of the holiday is about giving thanks, showing gratitude, reflecting on what we appreciate and love. I can’t think of a worse way to show thankfulness than brutally abusing and slaughtering 45 million living creatures. Why should the centerpiece of this joyous holiday be the carcass of a tortured animal? This year, focus on the family, on the friends, on the spirit of the occasion, even on the (cruelty-free) food, but not on an abused animal! Begin a tradition of celebrating thanks by choosing kindness, compassion, and life. Fill your table with delicious, meat-free dishes and I promise, not only will your stomach feel satisfied, but so will your heart.
Over the years, I’ve posted quite a bit about turkeys. Writing a Thanksgiving post about turkeys has sort-of become a tradition on Powered By Produce. Check out some of my previous posts about turkeys if you want even more reasons to leave these beautiful creatures off your plate.
This is your Thanksgiving turkey
Bird of courage
Traditions (that really aren’t)
Thanksgiving Day (dis)Grace
Top 10 Reasons to not eat turkeys
Meet your meat: Turkeys
Meet your meat: Chickens and turkeys
Let’s talk turkey