Don’t gob­ble the gob­blers

Give tur­keys some­thing to be thank­ful for this Thanks­giv­ing: Go ve­gan

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By So­nia Bakhshi So­nia Bakhshi lives in Brookeville; her email is bakhshisoni@gmail.com.

Iam go­ing to chal­lenge you with a dare, but be­ware, it may be dif­fi­cult. It’s so crazy in fact, that I am hes­i­tant to even sug­gest it — were it not for the mil­lions of lives at stake.

For this Thanks­giv­ing and beyond, I dare you to ditch the tur­key from your din­ner ta­ble. Even if you’ve al­ready pur­chased your tur­key and made plans on how best to cook it, you can at least start the con­ver­sa­tion with fam­ily and friends. I know this sounds ridicu­lous but you’ll be an ab­so­lute hero if you do.

By opt­ing for a non-an­i­mal al­ter­na­tive to this tra­di­tion, you will re­duce de­mand for these birds and save a tur­key from a ter­ri­ble fate. Raised and “har­vested” solely for this spe­cial day, more than 46 mil­lion tur­keys in the U.S. are sub­ject to ex­treme pain and mis­ery. Ac­cord­ing to the Hu­mane So­ci­ety of the United States, baby tur­keys have part of their beaks and toes hastily and painfully re­moved to pro­tect work­ers and pre­vent losses from fights, be­cause the tur­keys go men­tal in such crowded spa­ces. I won’t ut­ter what else goes on here, but let’s just say that lan­guage be­longs in a place like Tolkien’s Mor­dor. If you’d like to be in the loop and don’t mind read­ing grue­some true sto­ries, I be­lieve a sim­ple Google search will fill you in quickly.

I can un­der­stand why the ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans feel the need to cook a tur­key in order to make Thanks­giv­ing com­plete, as it wasn’t too long ago that I shared nos­tal­gia for the tur­key-serv­ing tra­di­tion.

Ex­cite­ment would brew when the plas­tic-wrapped tur­key was brought home from the gro­cery store, with my sib­lings and I gath­er­ing quickly to judge the size of the cold and heavy pur­chase. While the tur­key sat in the oven, the rest of the din­ner guests would wait im­pa­tiently un­til it was done and my mother car­ried the main dish over to the cen­ter of the ta­ble, ready to be carved. My fa­ther took his sweet time del­i­cately cut­ting each serv­ing of tur­key, amid the “oohs and ahhs” spew­ing from around the ta­ble.

Iron­i­cally it was the side dishes, the hid­den-heroes of Thanks­giv­ing, that we seemed to en­joy and take more help­ings of than the main tur­key dish. If it’s the process of shopping for the main dish, pre­par­ing it and serv­ing it at the din­ner ta­ble that em­bod­ies the tra­di­tion of this hol­i­day, then it is highly pos­si­ble to switch the bird dish for a non-an­i­mal dish and be just as suc­cess­ful, if not more so.

One ex­am­ple of an al­ter­na­tive en­tree is a breaded and baked (or deep fried) whole­head of cau­li­flower, spiced to per­fec­tion. Once set at the ta­ble and carved, the steamy aroma will reach ev­ery din­ner guest and leave them want­ing more.

Though if you feel you have to have your tur­key, I hope you chose a tur­key from a lo­cal farm you can visit, to see first­hand how the birds are treated. Even though gro­cery stores sell plenty of tur­keys la­beled with prom­ises of hu­mane treat­ment, chances are their up­bring­ing is not what you or I would truly con­sider “hu­mane.” For in­stance But­ter­ball, one of the largest tur­key pro­duc­ers in the U.S., is Amer­i­can Hu­mane Cer­ti­fied, yet un­der­cover videos of bla­tant abuse against the tur­keys have been re­leased by mul­ti­ple non­prof­its.

Even fore­go­ing the tur­key dish, you can still call it tur­key day. Farm Sanc­tu­ary has a pro­gram where you can adopt and spon­sor one of the res­cued tur­keys, like Ruthie, at their sanc­tu­ary. As a spokesman for this pro­ject, ac­tor Alec Bald­win says “tur­keys are just as friendly, smart, and full of feel­ing as my dogs, and they de­serve to be treated bet­ter.”

If you ab­so­lutely must serve tur­key this year, then at least start talk­ing about mak­ing changes to fu­ture Thanks­giv­ing plans. This is how change hap­pens, by talk­ing about an issue and think­ing of al­ter­na­tives to make the world a bet­ter place. Whene­nough of us are will­ing and able to leave out the tur­key, we’ll be able to start a new Thanks­giv­ing tra­di­tion that will find its way through gen­er­a­tions to come. This time around, let’s give tur­keys some­thing to be thank­ful for.

JEN RYNDA/BAL­TI­MORE SUN ME­DIA GROUP

Would a veg­e­tar­ian or ve­gan Thanks­giv­ing meal be just as good? These two would prob­a­bly say “yes.”

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