By Elizabeth Paris
Thanksgiving is synonymous with turkey, but many people want this tradition changed.
“It is always great to celebrate and to have fun with families,” said Karin Robertson, the education manager of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). “But Thanksgiving should be a celebration, not a time for suffering and pain of animals.”
Over 3 million turkeys are killed every year. Wild turkeys live an average of 15 years while farm turkeys live for 20 weeks.
“They are crammed into a single warehouse, where heart attacks are a common death, the turkeys are so close to each other they are often smothered,” said Robertson. “On the way to the slaughter house they can freeze to death, fall out of the truck and then they are strung upside down, usually conscience, to be killed.”
Robertson believes that becoming a vegetarian is less about not eating meat and more about the treatment of animals. “It”s the compassionate choice,” she said. Although free-range turkeys and farm birds are available, they do not have to conform to any set standards.
“There is no guarantee that turkeys labeled free range are treated any differently from farm turkeys,” Robertson said.
Julie Koldewyn, from North Ogden is also a vegetarian. She does not eat any meat, or plain eggs, cheese and diary. Her brother became a vegan in high school and sparked Koldewyn”s interest. After her own research she decided it was a good way to live.
This year Julie is going to celebrate Thanksgiving at her grandmother”s house. She enjoys Thanksgiving and said there is usually enough for her to eat besides the turkey. This year however she is going to bring some food of her own “just in case”. She is excited about a recipe for a vegan pumpkin pie.
Robertson is eating the normal side dishes with tofurkey, while everyone is eating a “bird carcass”.
At Popular Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, Maryland some people are even eating with the turkeys. “Thanksgiving with the Turkeys” is a popular event at the sanctuary where the people bring a vegan dish to share and enjoy the turkeys” company, not their taste.
Robertson said information is the key, once people know of the cruelty animals go through she believes they will make a stand. It is Robertson”s job to educate people who are willing to make a change. She works with high schools, colleges and even some elementary schools to educate people about the vegetarian life style.
PETA offers many resources to the inquiring mind. They have an 800-number, and a Web site goveg.com where people can satisfy their curiosity. If a person decides to convert to the vegetarian ways PETA will send a starter kit full of information and helpful food hints.
“Just as people would never torture and kill the dogs and cats they live with, once they understand how farm animals are treated they will choose to eat something else,” Robertson said. “Meat and diary factories were built in the fact that consumes do not know what they are doing. They will not make a change until consumers give them no other choice.”
Robertson grew up in rural Indiana and knows that the vegetarian lifestyle is not always the popular choice. “One person eating one vegetarian meal saves one animal.”