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John Merryfield

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November 8, 2012
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‘Thanks-living’

Olive loves the cranberries, while Rhonda seems to prefer the pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes.

Rhonda and Olive are two of the dozens of rescued turkeys at Farm Sanctuary that have been saved, instead of served, on Thanksgiving Day. Many people travel to farm animal sanctuaries, like Farm Sanctuary in Orland or Animal Place in Grass Valley, this time of year to “turn the tables” and celebrate Thanksgiving by feeding turkeys instead of eating them.

Rather than being on the table, the turkeys get a place at the table and feast on traditional Thanksgiving foods, such as stuffing, squash, cornbread, mashed potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie. No other holiday is as focused on the killing and consumption of an animal as Thanksgiving. With a dead bird as the center piece of the family table, thanks is given for our health, life and the love of our family and friends.

Forty-five million turkeys are killed for Thanksgiving dinner. During their lives, these birds are packed into filthy, unventilated warehouses with just a square foot of space per bird. They suffer burning in their eyes, debeaking and detoeing and extreme breathing difficulties, while many die premature death by heart attacks due to their genetically oversized weight. Even so-called “organic” or “free-range” turkeys endure brutal conditions in transport and slaughter.

The heart-warming celebrations for the turkeys at farm animals sanctuaries have become a part of many families Thanksgiving tradition. First-time visitors are taken aback by both the animals’ personality and their individuality. One thing is clear: Whether human or turkey, all of us seek pleasure and avoid pain. Despite obvious differences among species, human and non-human animals are more alike than different in ways that matter. We love and nurture our children, we form friendships, we seek pleasure in our encounters, and we lead rich emotional lives.

Some people within the sanctuary community have taken to calling this holiday “Thanks-living.” For how can we be grateful for what we have if we kill an animal in the process of giving thanks? Thanks-living implies that only by respecting the lives of others can we truly express the gratitude for the blessings in our own lives. Whether we call it Thanksgiving or Thanks-living, farm animal sanctuaries help us realize that at our essence, we are all the same, including animals, and that giving thanks for your own life shouldn’t come at the expense of another’s.

John Merryfield lives in Kings Beach, Calif. He is director of Vegan 1 Day and has worked in animal welfare for 29 years.

Whether human or turkey, all of us seek pleasure and avoid pain.


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The Union Updated Nov 16, 2012 12:06PM Published Nov 15, 2012 07:39AM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.