PETA and Thanksgiving: Talking Turkey

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, has a long history of being controversial. Their polarizing anti-meat, anti-research, and anti-fur campaigns can be harsh, in-your-face, and brilliant.  And there's no better time for PETA to activate its campaign machine than during Thanksgiving, a holiday that revolves around a roasted bird.

So far, PETA has placed billboards that equate eating turkeys with eating dogs. The billboard features an adorable Jack Russell terrier in feathers, with the tagline "Kids: If you wouldn't eat your dog, why eat a turkey?"

They've also demanded the town of Turkey, Texas, a bustling metropolis of 500 people, to change their name to Tofurkey. Needless to say, the residents declined to accommodate the organization's request.

President Obama was asked to change the traditional turkey pardon at

the White House to a turkey "spare", since the word "pardon" implies the

turkey did something wrong. In a letter to the White House, PETA

president, Ingrid Newkirk wrote, "The difference between 'spare' and

'pardon' may seem slight, but as you know, our language choices have a

lasting influence on the way that we, as a culture, view the action

described. These turkeys, as well as the millions of turkeys slated to

be violently killed for the holidays, are innocent bystanders, not

criminals. It would be more accurate to 'spare,' or refrain from

harming, them."

And, in my personal favorite, PETA supporters displayed a giant Thanksgiving dinner

in the middle of Philadelphia's Market Street - complete with a

lifelike human baby instead of a turkey, as part of a campaign to make

people realize that most turkeys are slaughtered before they're a year


Why does PETA do these totally crazy campaigns? To make us

stop and think for a minute. They're up against huge corporations and

associations, like the National Turkey Federation, who's website

offers turkey recipes, trivia, and an animated e-card that you can send

to a friend, which features a turkey with a British accent asking "Do I

make you hungry?"

Both PETA and The National Turkey Federation

are serving up a big heaping plateful of propaganda. It's up to us to

take both into consideration.

For instance, according to

statistics on the National Turkey Federation's website, "In 2010, more

than 244 million turkeys were raised. More than 226 million were

consumed in the United States." 

According to PETA, most of

those turkeys were "raised on factory farms are hatched in large

incubators and never see their mothers or feel the warmth of a nest.

When they are only a few weeks old, they are moved into filthy,

windowless sheds with thousands of other turkeys, where they will spend

the rest of their lives."

Whether or not we choose to eat meat or

go vegetarian or vegan goes deep. There are so many factors to consider

including cultural, religious, moral, and ethical ones that form that decision.

But one thing we all can agree on is that factory farming and cruelty

to animals (even ones destined for the plate) is wrong. Factory farming

is bad for our environment, the animals, the factory workers, and it's just bad


There are steps to take that aren't as drastic as going vegan. We

could pledge to not buy meat from factory farms and/or cut down on our

meat consumption. By buying meat from local producers, we're supporting

small businesses and making healthier choices for our families by not

having them ingest proteins laden with the hormones and antibiotics that

many factory farms pump into their animals.

As you're

sitting down to give thanks, take a moment to reflect on the turkey in

front of you, if there is one. Give thanks to the bird that gave its

short life for your family meal. And pledge to not support factory farms by buying local cruelty-free animal products (or try going meat-free, at least part-time).

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss

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