PETA and Thanksgiving: Talking Turkey

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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?"

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PETA's dog-urky campaign.
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 old.

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 karma.

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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