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A Compassionate Thanksgiving Dinner: It's Easy and Delicious!

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Many people equate vegetarianism with deprivation of their favorite foods, the foods they think they need to feel satiated and healthy. That’s because we have been told all our lives that eating animals and animal products is not only good, but necessary. There is no time of year that this becomes more evident than during the holidays. Thanksgiving represents a time of joy and celebration marked by great feasting. Some of our warmest childhood memories are recalled by the tastes and smells of the holiday table.  

But what we fail to stop and think about is the enormous suffering experienced by the animals who end up as the centerpiece of our holiday feast.  So perhaps we can take a few minutes to consider what happens to turkeys before they get to your Thanksgiving dinner plate.

To satisfy the American palate, more than 250 million turkeys are killed each year.
With selective breeding and growth-promoting drugs, turkeys grow far faster than they naturally would. Such rapid growth causes turkeys to suffer from many chronic health conditions including skeletal disorders and heart disease.

Most "farmed" turkeys spend their entire lives inside poorly ventilated, overcrowded warehouses, which typically house up to 25,000 birds in a single shed, giving each bird as little as one square foot of space. Such density makes it impossible for these birds to carry out normal behaviors and causes them to suffer from stress and disease.

After 14 to 20 weeks, they are transported to slaughterhouses without food, water, or protection from extreme temperatures, sometimes for days.

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, 50,000 turkeys are slaughtered each day at just one Butterball plant in Arkansas. Desensitized slaughterhouse workers routinely punch live turkeys in their heads, grab them by their legs and bang them against walls, and throw them on the ground and stomp on them. And this plant is not unique: Such conditions exist at slaughterhouses across the country. And those are the lucky turkeys.

The unlucky ones who make it to "the line" alive, are dumped onto conveyor belts,  hung upside down in shackles by their legs and pulled through an electrical water bath, which paralyzes them, but doesn't kill them or stop them from feeling pain. Next, they are dragged across an electric blade that is supposed to slit their throats and then they are dumped into a tank of scalding hot water for de-feathering. But if anything goes wrong, as often happens when a turkey is hung improperly and misses the blade, she ends up in the boiling water alive and aware. Millions of birds are scalded to death in this way at slaughterhouses each year.

If by now you've lost your appetite for turkey, and it would not be at all surprising if you did, you can rest assured that it's easy to enjoy an all-the-trimmings without-the-cruelty Thanksgiving dinner. After all, almost everything on your holiday plate is already predominantly vegetarian: Sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, green beans ... Tofurky is a delicious alternative to the traditional bird, and you will find many other hearty and satisfying Thanksgiving recipes at these websites:

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I've been enjoying compassionate Thanksgiving dinners for 25 years. Here's what my plate looked like last year. Does this look like deprivation to you?

Try serving compassion this Thanksgiving. It's good for you, great for the animals, and it tastes delicious!  To tempt your taste buds, here's an easy cruelty-free recipe for a scrumptious pumpkin pie.

1 1/2 cups soymilk (vanilla or plain)
4 Tbsp. cornstarch - or - arrowroot
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin
1/2 cup raw sugar or other sweetener
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. cloves
1 ready-to-bake pie crust shell

In a large bowl, whisk together soy milk and cornstarch or arrowroot until smooth, then blend in remaining ingredients.  Pour into pie shell.  Bake in a preheated 375° oven for 45 minutes. Cool before cutting. Top with Soyatoo Whipped Topping or Purely Decadent Made with Coconut Milk vanilla ice cream.
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editor rob kall here. I couldn't resist uploading his pic of a wild turkey who visited us in our backyard. Kinda takes the appetite for drumsticks away. He was friendly and trusting... what a turkey, trusting humans. Hmm. so that's where the insult comes from.

The good news is, I took the pic last year and this year, we were just visited by 5 young turkeys and an older one, maybe the same one. 

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Gail Davis is the author of several books on plant-based eating including So, Now What Do I Eat? and Vegetarian Food For Thought: Quotations and Inspirations. As a self-described "foodie," a food coach, and chef's consultant (more...)

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I know you can't post all the recipes here, bu... by Meryl Ann Butler on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 11:27:13 AM
I'm happy to share what I'm planning to in... by Gail Davis on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 1:53:40 PM
Got any ideas for a wheat free turkey replacement,... by Meryl Ann Butler on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 6:00:03 PM
I did a little searching for you and  This Ro... by Gail Davis on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 8:02:50 PM
i think I'm gonna try that mock turkey from th... by Meryl Ann Butler on Wednesday, Nov 19, 2008 at 12:29:06 AM
Thanx Gail.  You don't have to convince m... by Suzana Megles on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 12:25:17 PM
but for the truth about soy you should read all ww... by Jenny Miner on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 12:44:15 PM
yeah, my body doesn't like much soy - so I use... by Meryl Ann Butler on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 12:58:05 PM
For all the bashing soy foods have received of lat... by Gail Davis on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 1:46:19 PM
Please read "What About Soy?" It's a... by Gail Davis on Wednesday, Nov 19, 2008 at 6:32:35 PM
Yummmm without the glum - I like it! Cruelty-free ... by Bea Elliott on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 12:41:57 PM
Rutabega is traditional in my family and my Mom... by spakitty on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 2:20:34 PM
I just adore rutabaga! I've never tried it mas... by Gail Davis on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 5:11:37 PM
Sure beats picking the pellets out of the turkey a... by Gallaher on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 3:22:52 PM
and tofu is lots easier to catch!... by Meryl Ann Butler on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 7:44:31 PM
We do this on occassion and it's better than t... by camanokat on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 4:06:36 PM
One year I made succotash (corn and limas, with fr... by Meryl Ann Butler on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 6:03:35 PM
Certainly the best one I've seen tonight....Un... by richard on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 9:08:33 PM
Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Richard. T... by Gail Davis on Wednesday, Nov 19, 2008 at 10:06:20 AM
For that horrifying description of my Thanksgiving... by Zena Princess on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 at 11:26:13 PM
Wish I could hop on a plane & sit at your tabl... by Vegan Marr on Wednesday, Nov 19, 2008 at 3:34:21 AM