As we approach Thanksgiving, we offer some statistical food for thought (in specific, information on turkey consumption in the United States). The National Turkey Federation tells us the following:
In 2008, more than 273 million turkeys were raised. More than 232 million were consumed in the United States. We estimate that 46 million of those turkeys were eaten at Thanksgiving, 22 million at Christmas and 19 million at Easter.
Nearly 88 percent of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation eat turkey at Thanksgiving. The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 15 pounds, meaning that approximately 690 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the United States during Thanksgiving in 2008.
In 2005, the United States Department of Agriculture issued a press release stating that the average turkey weight in the U.S. had increased by 4% a year since 1965. In 1965, turkeys averaged 18 pounds; in 2005, they averaged 28.2 pounds. A total increase of 67%. To give you some perspective, United Poultry Concerns has statistically correlated that "if a 7-pound human baby grew as fast as baby turkeys are forced to grow, the human baby would weight 1500 pounds at 18 weeks old." The turkey industry acknowledges the obvious pain this causes. Feedstuffs, an industry publication, says turkeys raised for food “have problems standing, and fall and are trampled on or seek refuge under feeders.”
As participants in a turkey rescue back in 2001, we have seen this for ourselves. Turkeys we helped to rescue with the Farm Sanctuary that day were mostly collapsing under their own weight and were visibly very sick. (It is widely known that turkeys develop congestive heart failure, lung disease, and many other ailments as a result of their industrialized engorgement.)
It starts when they're young. Their beaks are trimmed by an electric blade without the use of anesthesia. This is done because of the way they cram these birds together in factory farms. It is unnatural for these birds to be so crammed and their natural instinct is to peck at each other in order to try to get space. Unfortunately, it gets even worse for these birds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture exempts birds from its enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. What does this mean? The Humane Society of the United States tells us that "Nearly all animals killed for food in the U.S. are chickens and turkeys—more than nine billion each year. They're shackled upside down, paralyzed by electrified water and dragged over mechanical throat-cutting blades ... all while conscious."
It's certainly not fun information to read or research, but it's important to relay and if there's ever a good time to share it, just before the holidays would be it. Believe it or not, there is good news here! If you enjoy the taste and experience of eating turkey at Thanksgiving, there are amazing vegetarian alternatives out there such as Tofurky's Vegetarian Feast or Quorn's Turk'y Roast that will amaze you in taste and texture. ("How do they do it??" you'll ask yourself. "It tastes like turkey!") In addition, you can check out some vegetarian recipes for the holiday season c/o the International Vegetarian Union. (You can also Google “vegetarian thanksgiving recipes” for a wide array of additional options.)
Thank you for taking the time to consider the information we gave you. It starts with each one of us making compassionate and conscious choices and we hope you will pass it on.
We wish you all a love filled Thanksgiving.