By Ivyanna Colon-Greider ’17
As a girl who, for most of her life, had turkey for every Thanksgiving meal, I now mourn the lives of the 45 million turkeys being slaughtered this holiday season.
300 million turkeys face death every year in factory farms, and only a change in perspective and diet, such as vegetarian substitute to turkey this holiday season, can change this statistic.
Social and playful birds, turkeys can live in the wild for up to 10 years; however, in factory farms, the lives of these friendly birds are cut dramatically short to, at most, 5 to 6 tortuous months.
Their inescapable demise begins at birth, where they never meet their mothers and the only source of warmth they receive is from an incubator.
Farmers use a process called selective breeding, where they genetically manipulate the birds by injecting drugs into them, which makes them grow unnaturally fast because the larger the bird, the larger the paycheck the farmer will receive.
Once the birds become old enough, they are moved with thousands of other turkeys into cramped, windowless sheds, where filth and darkness await to attack these helpless birds.
In these cramped sheds, the turkeys are kept in a space of about two and a half to four square feet, while also continuing to grow rapidly. It is said that factory farmed turkeys already are three times larger than a wild male turkey at four months of age, and according to PETA, shockingly, “. . . modern turkeys grow so quickly that if a 7-pound human baby grew at the same rate, the infant would weigh 1,500 pounds at just 18 weeks of age.”
Unfortunately, due to the drugs, these turkeys are born through artificial insemination as male turkeys can no longer engage in natural reproduction because they develop large breasts.
Confined to a very small space for months, the turkeys not only cannot reproduce naturally, but they also develop many health problems like heart disease, respiratory and eye problems due to the stench of the ammonia created from standing in waste, and leg disorders, among many other ailments. Eventually, the turkeys may become crippled because they are so overweight and can no longer support their own weight.
Besides health problems, turkeys are under so much stress in these suffocating sheds that they may hurt other turkeys with their beaks and toes. Since the farmers want to avoid flesh wounds, they cut the males’ snoods off, a portion of the toes with medical shears, and a “. . . part of the sensitive, nerve-filled beak. . . using a hot blade, shears, or a high-voltage electrical current,” according to Farm Sanctuary. Even worse, these inhumane procedures are done without any use of anesthetics or pain relievers.
Unfortunately, the suffering is not yet over for many turkeys. Once they reach market weight, they are thrown into tiny crates, often resulting in broken bones, and transported, often long distances, to slaughter without food or water and protection from the elements. Many turkeys die before they reach the slaughterhouse. Those that do survive the abhorrent conditions are not able to have a peaceful death in the slaughterhouse.
The turkeys are hung by their weak, broken legs and dragged through a “stunning tank,” which unfortunately for the turkeys, does not kill them. Some turkeys are entirely conscious when they get their throats slit while some are scalded alive in the scorching water used in feather removal.
Turkeys are just one species of the many victims subject to the heinous abuse in factory farms. Please do not support this cruel industry anymore. Choose compassion and share a cruelty-free substitute with your family this Thanksgiving.
Below are sources for meatless recipes for this Thanksgiving: