By Tanya Janish
Thanksgiving is a special day for me. It is the day I began down a compassionate path, even though I didn’t know it at the time. The day I decided to make a change, not understanding the profound impact that change would have on my life. It is the day I decided to go vegan.
I remember the exact moment that I decided to go vegan. It was on Thanksgiving Day 2011. It was my first Thanksgiving not eating turkey because I became vegetarian sometime during 2010. Becoming vegetarian was sort of a fluke. My sister-in-love (so much more fitting than sister-in-law) was vegetarian and lived with my husband and me briefly. We began making meals, first, with meat on the side and, later, with no meat at all. I felt better so I stopped eating meat – seemed logical to me.
Not eating turkey was not as difficult as I thought it might be because I simply filled the meat void with cheese. Lots and lots and lots of cheese. I ate so much cheese that I made myself sick. As a sat there feeling awful after dinner I thought do I really want to eat something that makes me feel like this? Maybe I should try the vegan thing. I became vegan, sort of, immediately by cutting out dairy and eggs, but I continued to eat treats (cookies, cake, doughnuts) that contained those products. I have a bit of a sweet tooth. OK, that is an understatement. I have a serious sweet tooth. Because I only changed for health reasons at the time, I continued on like this for a couple of months. Then one weekend I decided to see if I could find some vegan alternatives for my favorite treats.
I found a fantastic alternatives list on PETA’s website, but also stumbled upon some disturbing stuff. Here I saw, for the first time, how the animals we eat are treated. I spent the whole weekend online obsessively researching factory farming and beyond. I also saw how the animals we use for clothes are treated, how they are tested on for cosmetics and what they go through for something as stupid as our entertainment. On Sunday night it all came to a boiling point when I saw this short video from The Gentle Barn about two horses that were byproducts of the Premarin industry. Premarin is a menopause medicine made from the urine of pregnant horses (what the hell?!). These horses were considered byproducts (what the hell?!). I sobbed for hours. After I pulled myself together I was furious. I could not believe the amount of suffering that I had caused in my lifetime, without even knowing.
This time I took the necessary steps to truly become vegan. I learned all I could about what food items were vegan and began reading labels like crazy. Once my diet was animal free, I began to remove the animal products from my closet, then my beauty products, home décor, entertainment experiences and so on. The amount of suffering that I alone caused from first thing in the morning by putting on make-up to the end of the day when I cuddled up in bed with my down comforter astounded me. If you have a moment, stop reading and consider your own daily routine and how each step impacts animals. You will be shocked…
The full transition took about two years. After I had changed my ways and, in turn, changed my life, I wanted to help more animals by becoming an advocate. I began attending protests with PETA, leafleting with Compassion Over Killing and donating to animals rights organizations. I began to meet people within the vegan community and knew this was a group that I was proud to be a part of.
Once I became active in the vegan movement both in my daily life and as an advocate, I decided I wanted to pay tribute to the day I decided to go vegan, Thanksgiving. I decided Thanksgiving would be my big vegan holiday and wanted to do something special for the turkeys lost every year in the name of giving thanks. A major player in the vegan community is the duo from Our Hen House. I began listening to their weekly podcast and reading their blog regularly. In summer/fall of 2013 in an OHH blog post I learned about the 46millionturkeys project.
This was it, exactly what I had been looking for. I began drawing turkeys in August and drew over 20,000 by the time November rolled around. My supportive husband and I decided to celebrate our second vegan Thanksgiving by driving to Maine, home of 46millionturkeys, to visit the display that I was so proud to have participated in. In my “Eat No Turkey” tee I visit the display where I met the project’s creator, Cheryl Miller. Her passion was obvious and beautiful and I was happy to have contributed to such a positive project that would bring awareness to the plight of the so, so many turkeys killed for Thanksgiving alone.
This year I wanted to continue to partake in the project and began drawing turkeys in July. Then I thought to myself, maybe there is more I can do. I contacted Cheryl to see if she was interested in bringing the project to the DC Metro area and she thought it was a great idea! We are currently planning an event (11/20/2014) and display (11/20-29/2014) at Evolve Vegan Restaurant! While I’m so looking forward to the event and display this year, I’m also looking forward to continuing to make this project part of my Thanksgiving tradition for years to come.