Let’s Talk Turkey
In May of 2007, just a month after going vegan, I made a trip to Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY. It is an absolutely magical, picturesque place, and I don’t even care how corny that sounds. If my decision to go vegan hadn’t been cemented yet, after that trip it certainly was. It was so amazing to be able to connect to the animals I had committed to help three times a day when I sat down to eat.
As Thanksgiving is a mere 2 days away, I thought it might be fun to post some photos of the beautiful turkeys I met on that trip, and compare their luxurious digs with those of factory farmed turkeys. So, let’s level set – here’s how factory farmed turkeys live. First, they hatch in incubators, and get loaded up in tiny crates to be shipped off to factory farms:
They’ll spend about 5 months living crammed into warehouses like this:
Then they get loaded into tiny crates again and sent to slaughter. You can read more about the process from birth to slaughter, none of which is natural or pleasant, here.
Places like Farm Sanctuary, however, are safe havens for these birds. They live outdoors in flocks, where they can forage and enjoy the fresh air and sunlight. They have comfortable shelter full of hay where they can sleep or stay warm when it’s cold out. Have you ever seen anything so idyllic?
Male turkeys, called Toms, are the ones with the back feathers that stand up straight – what most Americans think of when they picture a turkey. The female’s feathers lay straight back, and are not as colorful as the male’s. Of course, today’s farmed turkeys are all white – bred that way to produce white meat.
A turkey’s carancle, the fleshy skin on his head and neck, can change colors depending on his mood. This skin is incredibly soft, and the turkey pictured here LOVED to have it stroked. He was quite a flirt – he would strut around and come up to us to get a little love from us. Notice how his carancle is both dark red and bright blue – so pretty, isn’t it??
Today’s factory farmed turkeys look nothing like their wild ancestors, whose feathers are dark brown and black, allowing them to better blend in with their natural habitat. Then again, humans have taken away pretty much everything natural about a turkey’s short life. And that’s part of why I choose not to give thanks by eating one!