Let’s keep cruelty at bay, adopt animal-free lifestyle

By John Di Leonardo 

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 killed for Thanksgiving last week never knew that life. Like chickens, turkeys raised and killed in the U.S. 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 face 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 (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, however. Ahead of Thanksgiving, my organization Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION) practices Anuvrat, or small vows, to honor these turkeys by not only leaving them off their plates but asking slaughterhouses to spare them. This year, we convinced a New York City live slaughter market to spare the life of a months old turkey who would otherwise have been destined for slaughter as well as a weeks old chick who was being cannibalized in front of rescuers’ eyes. We also partnered with PETA to distribute hundreds of delicious turkey-free meals that both turkeys and our communities can be thankful for and donated several hundred pounds of feed to a sanctuary who cares for turkeys and other animals. Others take additional vows, such as fasting on this day, volunteering with animal sanctuaries, or donating toward indigenous organizations (Many Jains individually and through their temples or organizations donate vegetarian food, more specifically to the homeless in the USA, like LION and other organizations).

While it is too late to help the 46 million turkeys who were killed for last week’s meals, it is not too late to help the 22 million turkeys scheduled to be killed for Christmas or the 3 billion land and sea animals killed worldwide each day by simply leaving them off your plate. 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 www.humanelongisland.org. 

John Di Leonardo is an anthrozoologist and the founding director of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION). He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He went to India and obtained a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. He can be reached at [email protected]. 

Acharya Tulsi Ji

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