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
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 eatturkeynow.com 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.
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
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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).