According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 46 million turkeys will be killed for Thanksgiving dinners this year, but the beleaguered animals do have a few friends near the Antelope Valley who’ll be celebrating the holiday without eating birds.
Farm Sanctuary in Acton celebrates turkeys “as living, vibrant, social, emotional, and sentient beings” who “form loving relationships, have strong and distinct personalities, and deserve a life free from harm,” the group says in a message on its website.
“Thanksgiving is supposed to be about gratitude, but the factory farming industry has co-opted it to promote the consumption of turkeys who’ve suffered tortured lives on industrial farms,” Farm Sanctuary President and Co-Founder Gene Baur said. “It’s more fun and more compassionate to celebrate the holiday with turkeys as our friends, instead of eating them.”
The group’s annual Celebration for the Turkeys event on Saturday is sold out, but the sanctuary is also conducting its annual Adopt A Turkey campaign. For a one-time donation of $35, people can symbolically adopt a rescued turkey, or sponsor an entire flock for $150, allowing the animals to live out their natural lives at one of the group’s spacious farms, including the one in Acton.
Sponsors receive a certificate with their adopted turkey’s photo and bio, including their rescue story. The group has been sponsoring the program since 1986, and several of their rescued turkeys’ stories can be viewed at www.farmsanctuary.org/adopt-a-turkey. Farm Sanctuary also offers a “Turkey-Free Pledge,” which people can sign as a promise to leave turkeys off their plate on Thanksgiving.
Mayim Bialik, Alan Cumming, Corey Feldman, Nikki Glaser, Ashley Jackson, Jane Lynch, Richa Moorjani, Madelaine Petsch, Alicia Silverstone, Langhorne Slim, and Jackson Galaxy are among the celebrities who signed the pledge this year.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is also promoting a no-turkey pledge for Thanksgiving, in the fifth year of its “ThanksVegan” campaign. More information, including recipes, can be found at peta.org/thanksvegan. Despite the near-ubiquity of turkeys on Thanksgiving plates, families do have an impressive number of other meal choices.
The most popular vegan option for holiday dinners is Tofurkey, founded in 1980 by self-described teacher, naturalist and hippie Seth Tibbott. The company debuted its tofu-based Holiday Roast in 1995. Tofurkey roasts and other products are available at many Los Angeles County supermarkets, and can also be found online for as little as $12.99. Several other companies have followed suit and developed their own vegan roasts in recent years, including Gardein, Field Roast and Trader Joe’s.
The National Turkey Federation, a group formed in 1940 to market the animals as food, did not reply to a request for comment about the welfare of factory-farmed turkeys, but the group says on its website that turkeys are “raised in specially designed, environmentally controlled barns that provide maximum protection from predators, disease and weather extremes. Except for breeding and transportation purposes, turkeys can roam freely within their house.”
The group further states that “the health and well-being of growing turkeys is top-of-mind for turkey growers as they routinely patrol barns in search of signs that could prove problematic. … To ensure animal welfare practices are upheld throughout the industry, the National Turkey Federation works closely with America’s turkey growers, veterinarians and industry experts to develop and maintain strict Standards of Conduct and Animal Care Guidelines for raising healthy birds in a safe environment at every stage of a turkey’s lifecycle. These standards align with ethical treatment of animals, production of wholesome quality meat, respect and value of our workers and the wise use of land and water resources.”