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COLUMN: Reconsider what’s on your plate this Thanksgiving

A rescued turkey teaches Deborah Nasmyth about Thanksgiving
Deborah Nasmyth and her friend Aziza. Photo: Submitted

Submitted by Rixen Creek Micro Farm Sanctuary

A few months of watching Unsolved Mysteries with two half grown turkeys on your lap can be life changing. I now deeply regret every turkey Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner I ever ate.

You may not realize young turkeys will jump into your lap for snuggles, they love being stroked and sung to. Vint and Versailles, my first two rescues, had distinct personalities from the moment they arrived. I had a shy, elegant, careful, and gentle boy who loved to look at himself in the mirror. And a bossy, overbearing, fearless little girl who thought she was the queen and if not respected as royalty became, and still often becomes, offended. They slept in the bed with me and the cats and, as all turkeys are, love exploring and are very curious.

I purchased Aziza a day before her slaughter date last year. It broke my heart to see all the others, at the fence, curious to meet me, who would die the next day for Thanksgiving that weekend. Still babies at just four months old. I cried for weeks over them. I could only save one.

Aziza cried too when she was separated from them. In her baby voice she sang the “I’m lost” turkey call for days. Turkeys have a strong sense of family. They have a full vocabulary of bird sounds to express their moods. They don’t just gobble. Don’t be fooled by the serious expression on their faces, they have enormous capacity for emotion and feel delight, misery, and everything in between.

Aziza is a white commercial grocery store bird, genetically modified to grow large and fast. These birds suffer joint and respiratory problems and can get too heavy to even walk. Their chests, the prized meat, grow much too big proportionally. The same applies to meat chickens. Despite the risk of health problems I felt Aziza deserved a loving home.

She has made the best of the life we gifted her. She shrieks with delight when she dust baths, gets extremely excited for treats, and loves exploring the garden and sunbathing. Her name, Aziza, means “precious.”

Thanksgiving, and Christmas too, is about being grateful and spending time with family and loved ones. It doesn’t need to involve the heartless decapitation and slaughter of hundreds of thousands, millions, of beautiful birds. Supermarket birds raised on factory farms never meet their mothers, or see sun, or grass, and experience nothing but extremely overcrowded, filthy, misery before proceeding to the horrific live shackle commercial slaughter process.

Traditions that cause misery and suffering to sentient creatures need to be challenged and changed. Your Thanksgiving meal could be anything delicious, couldn’t it? Why not try a plant-based meal this year? Aziza, and the other slaughter rescues at Rixen Creek Micro Farm Sanctuary hope you’ll consider it. If you care about animals, the best way to reduce your animal cruelty footprint is to leave animals, and animal products, off your plate.