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To My Friends at Thanksgiving

IMG_0443 Thanksgiving 2010 will be Baby Sky's first, and our opportunity to introduce her to the notion that our family doesn't eat animals (not to mention that other historical story we'll be correcting). There will be no greyhound corpse on our table, no turkey corpse and no pig corpse. There will be no pies or cakes that were made with milk that was meant for calves, or eggs that represent dead male chicks, forced molting, debeaking and other mutilations and cruelties.

When in the position of having the choice, which so far is always, I'd rather choose not to have someone killed for me. Perfectly delicious and nutritious plant-based food is available for anyone who wants to make that choice this Thanksgiving. I think the biggest obstacle is that most people don't see themselves as choosing to hurt anyone. They would say they love animals. Yet their actions, at least three times a day (and when they put their clothes and shoes on) tell a different story.

The two objections to a vegan Thanksgiving that I hear most often are: It's our tradition and Because it tastes good.

It's our tradition.

Traditions are decided upon. They are consciously, intentionally repeated. And new ones can be created at any moment. I choose to opt out of traditions that cause harm and are the direct result of the exploitation and commodification of beings just like Charles, but who look a little different. And I want Baby Sky to grow up in a home where there is just as much respect for chickens and calves and fishes as there is for greyhounds and cats and people. Of course, the world outside of our home tells a different story. But we can bring our story to that world.

Because it tastes good.

This is a tough one to even dignify as I think it's the most offensive reason for killing someone. In addition, I've never heard it said in anything but a sarcastic or otherwise mocking tone. The conclusion I'm left making is that the person saying "Because it tastes good" thinks that it's funny that a sentient being was raped (in the case of cows), mutilated (chickens, pigs and others) and slaughtered (everyone) because people find them tasty. The other possible explanation is that these people do indeed feel uncomfortable that Because it tastes good is their honest answer. I think that's the case much of the time, but the conversation is too painful and causes so much cognitive dissonance, and sarcasm is the quickest way out of the situation.

Though this Thanksgiving is special for us, it is the opportunity for anybody to decide that this Thanksgiving will be a kindler, gentler, more compassionate one. This Thanksgiving can be a just one: Justice for beings who are like us in the most important of ways. Justice for beings who look very different from us but who, like us, experience pleasure and pain, boredom and frustration. Justice for beings who want to live their lives–who should be able to lives their lives–without being taken from their families and their homes to become a meal. Justice for beings whom we create for the sole purpose of killing, but who nevertheless want to live. We can do many horrible things to them and we can take a lot away from them. But they always have their desire to not be killed.

All it takes is a decision. Decide to choose justice over whatever reason you give for using other animals as food. It might not be easy, given family and societal pressures, but fortunately there are scores of books and websites and podcasts and videos and online vendors–and even restaurants–that can provide guidance (and delicious food). It's never been so easy to have a Just Thanksgiving.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jackie Morgan #

    you express my thoughts beautifully, thank you.

    I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful grey, Charlie. What a stunning boy. Happy, playful…. I know your grief, and send you strength and peace.


    November 18, 2010
  2. Mike Grieco #

    What a beautiful Sky; young and full of life with her creature friends all around her. I'm sure this little girl will make all the right and just decisions in life :)…


    November 19, 2010
  3. Thank you for writing this powerful and articulate post, Mary. It's one I will definitely be sharing with non-vegan friends and family. This Thanksgiving, I will give thanks that there are people like you in the world.

    November 19, 2010
  4. What a little beauty Sky is, and what a wonderful example you are setting for her. Something to strive for when I have my own wee ones! Though I will be with omnis on Thanksgiving, the fact that it will a very small family group gives me hope that any conversations about animals and food may be friendly and open-hearted. Or maybe they'll be too busy stuffing themselves with my incredible vegan dishes to eat any turkey!

    November 19, 2010
  5. Sandra Sandrea Walter #

    Thank you for sharing and my hope and prayer is that all humans can read this and be moved to change their dietary intake. Very well spoken ….Namaste'

    November 19, 2010
  6. Olivia #

    I like your word choice: a "Just Thanksgiving." Doing justice to animals on this day of thanks makes it so much more than *just* a day for humans; it becomes a *just* day for all species alike.

    What a heart-melting photo you treat us to — of Sky and her walrus with the twig-like whiskers! Here's guessing that most of the gifts she gets are stuffed animals. 🙂

    Shannon, have you read Melanie Joy's book about carnism? If so, when any friendly conversation starts up about animals and food, maybe your open-hearted family members would like to learn that new word, and what it means! I, too, hope they gorge on the vegan delights you're bringing to the table, to the point where they'll forgo buying a dead turkey in the future.

    November 21, 2010
  7. "Perfectly delicious and nutritious plant-based food is available for anyone who wants to make that choice this Thanksgiving." Oh… I can attest to that. I just shared a most satisfying meal with 300 other people who chose to eat in the most thoughtful way possible. The bounty and variety was endless! I know not for one second did I or anyone there ever feel "deprived" or made to "sacrifice" due to the absence of "the bird". We never missed "old Tom" a bit! 😉

    Thank you for a lovely post that encourages people to eat more thoughtfully… And thanks so much for sharing this heart-melting photo of beautiful Sky! You guys ought to be on cloud nine with joy!

    November 25, 2010

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