The Vegan Files
You know it’s getting close to Thanksgiving when memes like this one get passed around online. I suppose the intent is to cause the viewer to laugh at such a preposterous proposition. You’re dead, turkey! I want to see you plucked, stuffed, roasted and on a platter for my personal enjoyment! That’s right, I want you dead so that I can carve you up and enjoy eating your rotting flesh. The fact that you want to go on living, associating with others of your kind and raising future generations of birds means nothing to me. Tofu??!! Yuck!
It would be particularly sad if I thought that we had no regard at all for our fellow creatures. I know that this is not true because of the billions of dollars each year we spend on our pet dogs and cats. Even when it comes to turkeys, each year the president “pardons” two of them to live out their lives well taken care of on a farm. A couple of years ago, I read that this farm is in West Virginia and that the birds seldom survive for more than a few months past the date of their pardon. This is because commercially raised turkeys are fed a diet designed to increase the size of the breast to grotesque proportions in order to satisfy consumer demand. While there is such thing as free-range turkeys, for the most part, the birds are raised in tight spaces that prevent them from moving around much so that they can be fattened up that much faster. By the time they are ready for slaughter, they are so large that they can barely move even if they wanted to. They are so unhealthy that they are beyond benefitting from the freedom of a farm and veterinary care.
Whenever I hear that the president is getting ready to “pardon” two turkeys, I hope that perhaps he is referring to certain members of Congress. Certainly the turkeys have done nothing wrong that would cause them to require a “pardon.”
The other theme of the meme above has to do with tofu. How laughable that a turkey should plead for its life by asking us to eat such disgusting stuff instead! While I know numerous people who profess to dislike tofu, the unfortunate fact is that most Americans (with the possible exception of those whose moms engaged in traditional Asian cooking) have never even tried it.
The turkey is right that tofu is “really good.” While much has been written about the possible health dangers of eating too much soy (we won’t talk about the firm connection recently made between eating meat and colon cancer), the fact remains that it is a solid source of protein and one that requires much less of a carbon footprint to produce than, say, poultry. Plus, tofu doesn’t have bones to deal with, doesn’t have a carcass to dispose of once picked clean, and doesn’t need to be roasted for hours (or fried in peanut oil, a cause of multiple house fires each Thanksgiving). My own favorite thing about tofu is that it has a very mild flavor and goes with anything. Even if baked in the oven, it doesn’t stink up the house. I am not much of a cook, so I most often prepare tofu by simply dicing it and serving it over baked potatoes with carrots or spinach. I also like it in soup, what I call “faux pho.” And, yes, I have been known to eat it straight out of the package. Sure, there are fancy faux turkey roasts, but the great thing about tofu is that you don’t have to cook it if you don’t want to. If you like it hot, slice it and heat it in the microwave or dice it into an oil-coated pan with some mushrooms or broccoli. Otherwise, toss it onto a salad and eat it cold. Its diversity can’t be beat, and I like the fact that, if I haven’t prepared any lunch one day, I can throw a package of tofu into a bag with some bread and fruit and I will have a protein-packed, satisfying meal.
But back to the turkeys. My father is quick to point out that almost all turkeys currently alive would not exist at all if they weren’t commercially raised for slaughter and thence the freezer case at your local supermarket. This fact seems to me a lot like playing God. We get to decide when they live and when they die.
When my little grandniece was visiting with us last week, I began singing Christmas songs with her. “It’s not even Thanksgiving!” my wife noted. “But I don’t know any Thanksgiving songs,” I protested. Later, while my grandniece and her cousin were running amok in Chuck E. Cheese, I repeated the story to my sister-in-law. She admitted to knowing only one Thanksgiving song:
Gobble gobble gobble, fat turkeys, fat turkeys
Gobble gobble gobble, fat turkeys are
We’re not made for living
We’re made for Thanksgiving
Gobble gobble gobble, fat turkeys are we.
(With thanks to Ghost Academy for confirming the lyrics)
Suffice it to say that I will not be singing this song with my grandniece. “We’re not made for living?” Seriously? If you’re not going to treat your dog or cat like a mere thing that you can kill and dispose of at will, I question how you can countenance doing the same to a cow, pig or turkey.
To make things worse, I hear that the above ditty is sung in schools, thus indoctrinating children into feeling nothing when it comes to our fellow creatures. Surely, there is a more compassionate Thanksgiving song about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans together giving thanks to God over maize and yams? (Notwithstanding the fact that the ready availability of deer indicates the likelihood that venison was also on the menu.)
Too bad those landing at Plymouth Rock did not bring tofu across the ocean with them.
While it is unfortunately a myth that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird (he actually referred to the bald eagle as “a bird of bad moral character”), I love the story and wonder whether, if true, perhaps we’d eat roasted eagle with gravy and cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving. That is, if we found a way to force-feed the eagle and sing that it’s not made for living, just eating.
Tomorrow: The Joy of Receiving