Talking Turkey Without Pulling Punches

Marla Rose
6 min readNov 21, 2019

Thanksgiving is officially this month and it’s a pretty dreadful time of year for many animal advocates.

Thanksgiving puts us on edge, we get knots in our stomachs, we may always be on the verge of tears or ready to yell at people. We fantasize about how great it would be to just fast forward through November and December. We’re not being overwrought. The holiday season can be hard on everyone, but in addition to the family baggage, depression and stress, vegans get continual reminders of the one-sided, endless and brutal war our species continues to wage on other animals, especially around Thanksgiving.

When you‘ve been stripped of all illusions about what is done to the animals people eat, it is hard for many of us to face the holiday because even if we insulate ourselves, we are still aware of the unfathomable violence that happens every moment of every day and there is nothing like the Thanksgiving meal — and the lead up to it — to remind us of the bloodshed, made especially nauseating because it’s painted with a thick patina of platitudes like gratitude and togetherness. When you’re aware of the senseless cruelty, it’s impossible to unsee it, and it’s hard to not want to wake others up to it as well. Thus we get labeled as antisocial grumps or unwanted agitators.

Vegans are not the ones who have truly suffered at the Thanksgiving table, though. This is not to be dismissive, because as a vegan for more than a quarter of a century, I do understand how emotionally grueling it can be. I believe, though, that we need to very consciously center the animals who are so often removed from the picture, even by vegans. One of the ways that vegans unintentionally invisibilize animals is to position ourselves as the sufferers of this holiday’s cruel traditions. Seeing animal carcasses when we have removed our blinders about what we are seeing is distressing, but vegans are not the victims here.

It’s important to remember that:

If we had been born as turkeys, an incubator or heat lamp would have been our source of warmth before we’d hatched.

If we had been born as turkeys, we may have vocalized for our mothers while still in our shells but not heard her voice in response because we never were in proximity to each other. Indeed, if we had…