I believe Thanksgiving is precisely the time when we should be expressing our gratitude by doing something KIND for one of the most vulnerable sentient beings among us: the 49 million turkeys raised for Thanksgiving Day. I’ve got some great resources for turkey-free entrees that I will get to later, but first I want to address the question of the so called “humane” turkey which I get a lot of questions about.
I know that some of you think you can find a humanely-raised bird to cook, but I can’t tell what a betrayal these so-called humane claims are. Please don’t take my word for it. I suggest (with caution) that you watch a four-minute video I discovered the other day depicting in graphic detail how turkeys and chickens are “processed” in what we are to understand is the “humane” method, that is, the kill cone method. I say, with caution, since it is easily one of the most shockingly cruel and barbaric things I have ever witnessed in my life, and I have seen a lot! If you are brave enough to see the truth, here is the link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
For those of you who do not wish to watch this, allow me to briefly describe the process. In the kill cone method, the bird is stuffed down a long funnel, his neck is pulled through the narrow opening at the bottom. His neck is slit, and he remains conscious for up to 8 minutes as he bleeds to death. All blood must be drained from his body or his flesh will taste bad. Then he is dropped into a scalding tank of boiling water to loosen his feathers (many are still conscious at this point). Then he is thrown into a “spinner” which appears to have metal claws all around it, and his pathetic corpse flips around in it until all his feathers are plucked off.
Most poultry farmers believe that these birds were “ordained” to suffer this fate, put here on earth for the purpose of supplying us with food. They will also rationalize this brutality by categorically denying that these birds have any intelligence or capacity to feel pain or distress in this processing. But I am here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. I have learned through first hand observation as well as through peer-reviewed scientific research that these birds lead extremely complex social and emotional lives. Their pain receptors and nervouse system are in fact much like those of mammals.
Now I know that some will invoke tradition as a justification for bringing a turkey to the Thanksgiving table, but there are many traditions that we have abandoned and even outlawed because they are now regarded as barbaric, morally offensive or just out of step with the times. As farm animals become increasingly commodotized, it is high time we re-evaluate “turkey day” and perhaps create a new meal tradition in it’s place, one that is more consistent with grace and gratitude, one that is founded on compassion instead of violence. It is my hope that you will be exploring the many wonderful alternatives to turkey this Thanksgiving. I recommend getting started at The New York Times blog at http://well.blogs.nytimes.