This is not intended as a bitter vegan rant. It may end up that way, of course, but I come in peace. Sort of.
It’s three weeks until Thanksgiving. I am not excited about this. I haven’t been excited about it for a long time. This morning, I’ve been thinking about my awkwardly-spent youth and my love of erstwhile alternative radio station WHFS. (A moment of silence, please, Baltimorons.) HFS had a DJ—Kathryn Lauren, I think—who was a vegetarian. She staunchly referred to Thanksgiving as “Dead Bird Day,” I’m sure in spite of plenty of ribbing from her co-hosts. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but clearly it’s stayed with me. Maybe the image of a popular vegetarian (perhaps she was even vegan) DJ who wasn’t afraid to trumpet her convictions over the airwaves resonated with something nascent deep inside me. So, thanks, Kathryn.
I can’t muster any enthusiasm for Thanksgiving, a holiday that isn’t really a holiday. What are we celebrating, exactly? Another creation myth that serves the interests of the conqueror while glossing over the treatment of the conquered. Yawn. As Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy describes it, “Like all holidays, it is riddled with horrors. Smallpox blankets. The spurious Squanto mythology. Genocide. The expectation that one manifest a hearty, convivial mood in the bosom of the fam despite the fact that the whole binge is (a) quasi-godbagious, (b) a shitload of extra work for the womenfolk, and (c) poultry-based.” Um, yeah. That’s pretty much how I feel about the whole thing. And why I love Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary’s Thanksgiving WITH the Turkeys so, so very much.
Before you wrestle me to the ground and gag me with Tofurky, I’m not precisely dreading Thanksgiving. I love my family and I appreciate the two days off work. (Actually, I have a third, non-consensual day off this year. To whoever invented the concept of furlough days, you can join the state of Maine in kissing my ass.) I enjoy Thanksgiving and other family-centric holidays far more than I used to now that we’ve downsized them. Before, every holiday was spent with The Entire Family in an overwhelming spectacle of…something. So many aunts and uncles and cousins and current lovers and out-of-towners and hangers-on. In college, I started spending the entire evening—Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, you name it—getting as surreptitiously drunk as possible to avoid thorny social interactions. My logic was that if all my energy was directed towards acting sober, I wouldn’t have any left to start fights with my conservative relatives. It worked quite well, but left me soggy and depressed.
Recently, holidays have tended towards the more private. My family is doing more solo, which is a blessed relief. Now I have Red’s clan to deal with, and he has mine, but we stick together. Celebration-hopping is not an ideal solution—who do we have dinner with? what about dessert? do I even care since I’m bringing my own food anyway?—but it’s manageable. I am not eagerly anticipating the traffic and the attempted force-feeding that seems inevitable, but those are annoyances I can deal with. Regardless of how small the celebration, though, the sight of a dead turkey in the middle of the table, carved open and parceled out, distresses me. I’ve met turkeys: they’re sensitive and intelligent. Mother turkeys gather their chicks under their wings before settling down for the night and guard them fiercely. Benjamin Franklin lobbied for the wild turkey to be the national bird! The whole orgy of food seems wrong, in a country that has 5% of the world’s population yet uses 25% of its resources. And to celebrate animal murder, then add insult to injury by saying a prayer of thanks over its violated corpse, is unconscionable to me.
This, by the way, is why I never gain weight during the holidays.
Photo of Toulouse and her turkey friend courtesy of The Gentle Barn via United Poultry Concerns.