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the forty five million

November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving day has been integral in my development as a person. As I described in a previous post, a televised game of bowling, using frozen turkeys in lieu of bowling balls, was a catalyst to my decision not to eat turkey. It took over a decade before I became vegan but I got there. Later, I learned the racist roots of the holiday; a story much different than the one I had been taught as a child. Learning of this lie allowed me to begin questioning authority and the status quo.  If my teachers and parents could lie to me, it was up to me to investigate important issues and make my own decisions. It pushed me on a path of advocacy for other humans and has led me to a working professionally in human rights.

Four years ago, on thanksgiving, I wrote my first post on this blog. Three years ago I began fasting during the day. Last year I fomented my own tradition along with fellow activists. Along with fasting we drop a banner that provides a URL where people can learn more about the holiday. Below is a video of my friends engaging in this activity last year, along with the text from website I created to help educate others about this day.

Whatever you are doing today, I hope you are thinking of all those who have been oppressed by the racism or speciesism. And whatever you do, however you spend the day, do not eat anyone. And do not sit silently by as others do.



The first thanksgiving feast was in the early 1600’s at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts. After a harsh winter European settlers lost around half of their population. Those who survived did so because the Indigenous people in the area (a.k.a Native Americans) taught them how to farm. This first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the first successful harvest of the season for the European settlers. Thanksgiving has now become a time to gather with family, watch football, eat a lot, and relax. Today brings back fond memories of childhood for many of us, as we use the day to teach our own children family traditions and virtues of thankfulness. Though the day symbolizes positive things to many people, it is important to look at the roots of the holiday and to think deeply about the way we are celebrating.

human genocide.

After such generosity and a show of community, European settlers destroyed Indigenous populations.  Indigenous people were systematically murdered, raped, enslaved, and forced off of the land where they lived. It started on the east coast with the original settlements like Plymouth Plantation, and it continued west as European settlers followed a dream of Manifest Destiny. The destruction of Indigenous populations has continued throughout U.S. history. A partial list of atrocities include: Conestoga Massacre, Gnadenhutten Massacre, Sand Creek Massacre, Camp Grant Massacre, Wounded Knee Massacre, Trail of Tears, The Reservation system, “The Reservation schools,” 1830 Indian Removal Act, Cointelpro infiltration of Red Power Movement.

Wounded Knee 1890

European settlers, who later became the white land-holding citizens that established the U.S. political and legal systems, were spared by the generosity of Indigenous peoples. However, their returned the favor with colonization and the genocide of native populations, ways of life, and cultures. Today, Native Americans suffer inequalities in health, income, and education because the U.S. government continues to discriminate against them.

animal genocide.

Thanksgiving is typically celebrated with a huge feast. The center of this feast is most often a turkey. An estimated forty five million turkeys are slaughtered for thanksgiving day in the United States alone each year. That is equivalent to the number of individual Skittles in 750,000 bags of Skittles.

Turkeys feel pain, have a desire to be free, and want to live for something other than to be killed for our consumption. In this way they are no different from humans or the cats and dogs that might live with you at home.

Almost every single one of the 45 MILLION turkeys who are killed for thanksgiving dinners endure the following:

  • They are typically housed in crowded conditions with thousands of other turkeys, barely able to move
  • Their toes and the tips of beaks are cut off without any pain medication
  • Due to selective breeding, they grow so large at such a fast pace that their skeletons can’t support them and they have trouble standing
  • Being hung by their feet, fully conscious, on a suspended moving rail that will take them to slaughter. The slaughter line moves so fast and corporations cut so many corners to save money, that many turkeys are fully conscious and alive when they are plunged into boiling water to be defeathered.

There is no need to buy turkeys and further support the factory farms when there are plenty of delicious meat-free proteins available to eat.

Here is turkey slaughterhouse:

think twice.

Please think twice about why you celebrate thanksgiving and if it is even worth celebrating at all. The racist roots embedded in the day’s history are still alive today, and they can teach us a lot if we take the time to think things through. Racism remains prevalent in our culture and public policy continues to disadvantage racial and ethnic minorities. The U.S. government also continues to colonize other people and wage war on other cultures and nations.

Mass media has been terribly effective in teaching us that we can embody the proverbial American Dream by upholding senseless, truth-censoring traditions.

Although many of us cherish our non-human animal companions at home, we experience some sort of disconnect when it comes to the animals we eat. But just like your animals at home, turkeys feel pain, experience fear, and want freedom. Just like you, turkeys feel pain, experience fear, and want freedom.

Once we recognize the economic forces driving the massive commercialization of the Thanksgiving holiday we become better able to understand why the historical censorship is so heavy. Once we accept that “Thanksgiving” celebrates the massacre of Indigenous peoples, such an occasion is both marginalizing and absurd.

Please redefine the occasion for yourself and extend compassion to victims of slavery and slaughter. You do not need to eat turkeys; they were once living with their own dreams of happiness and freedom. In fact, you do not need the holiday at all to give thanks or to spend quality time with those you cherish.  Knowledge is power, and living intentionally while applying new knowledge to your lifestyles is one of the most powerful things you can do.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2013 1:48 pm

    Thanks, these issues have been much on my mind of late as well. Instead of “veganizing” Thanksgiving or trying to salvage some greater meaning from the atrocious provenance, there are surely better ways to counteract the multiple genocides embodied here. Fasting and advocacy are good ideas. I also like Buy Nothing Day in response to Black Friday–an equally offensive “holiday tradition” that provides a pretty perfect postscript to Thanksgiving.

  2. November 30, 2013 6:37 am

    Thank you for this. We are indeed an error ridden and often lied to society…including lying to ourselves. Here’s hoping we are moving away from this disgusting history of terrible behavior.

    Thank all of you for protesting and advocating.

  3. December 1, 2013 3:09 pm

    your blog is inspiring. It’s the “.. do not eat anyone. And do not sit silently by as others do” that’s hard for me. Eating meat doesn’t tempt me. I dont’ think of it as food. but I have a hard time, say, at pot luck dinners or when I volunteer at charity dinners or serving at homeless shelters — because if that’s what they serve (and it is) then what do you do? It’s hard for me to isolate myself from meat-eaters, as much as it hurts to see what they’re eating.


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