Story & Photos by Rachel Curit
The winter holiday season is arguably the most magical time of the year. Spending time with our loved ones, whether they are friends or family or companion animals, is what makes the holiday so special. These holidays, whichever you choose to celebrate, remind us of love, gratitude, and compassion. Relaxing on the couch with my grandfather, drinking hot mulled cider, and smelling the rich aroma of Field Roast or Tofurky as it bakes in the oven is what makes the holiday season so magical. Life is good, unless, you are one of the 46 million turkeys killed for Thanksgiving alone. It’s hard for me to imagine that 46 million individuals are slaughtered each year because…because somewhere along the line, that’s what we decided was tradition.
The first time I met a turkey was July 2013 at Peace Ridge Sanctuary in Penobscot, Maine. Prior to that experience, I was nervous around birds. Today, turkeys are one of my favorite animals. In a lot of ways, they remind me of cats, sassy, independent, curious, and loving.
Visiting with Fiona was therapeutic, similar to sitting with a sleepy lap cat. She sat with me in the shade as I rubbed her neck and stroked her feathers. As you can see in the picture, her eyes grew droopy and she eventually fell asleep. Though I practically had to force myself to walk away, I left there feeling more joyful than I had in a long time. If ever you’re feeling the vegan blues (aka. grieving for the animals), visiting a sanctuary is a surefire cure.
In early November, I visited Peace Ridge’s first Gentle Thanksgiving where we got to feed the residents. Of course, every resident was offered heaps of cranberries, carrots, apples, squash, and greens, but the turkeys received their feast on a platter because they were the honored individuals that day. Knowing that Fiona loves children, I’m sure she was just basking in the attention she received from the younger guests.
The hardest part about knowing how affectionate and inquisitive turkeys can be is watching my loved ones baste, stuff, roast, and eat their bodies in the name of love, gratitude, and tradition. To tell you the truth, it breaks my heart. I know, more or less, how he or she was treated. I know there was no love, no respect, no kindness in her final minutes. I know he was raised in an environment full of concrete and darkness. No one deserves that, and that includes the turkeys.
I hope this year, next year, and every year after, more and more people consider who their tradition impacts. It matters. Their lives are important to them. One day, every turkey will live like Fiona, loved, respected, and sunbathed.