“Here at Farm Sanctuary, we live with turkeys, so we know they are interesting and intelligent and have complex emotional lives like dogs, cats and other animals," said Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, where each Thanksgiving, volunteers serve a grand feast to rescued turkeys.
More than 45 million turkeys are slaughtered every Thanksgiving. The natural lifespan of turkeys is around 10 years. But on factory farms, turkeys are slaughtered when they are just five-month-old babies.
Domesticated turkeys from factory farms weigh twice as much as their wild brethren, because they are fed growth hormones to become unnaturally fattened—and are kept in close confinement so they have no room to exercise, let alone engage in any natural turkey behavior. All factory farmed turkeys live their entire lives inside dark and filthy sheds, they have no fresh air, no sunlight and no grass to walk on. Many of these unfortunate animals cannot even stand up due to their excessive weight. And those that can have broken or deformed legs from their excessive weight.
"If I had to sum up my experience with the wild turkey, the most profound thing that I discovered is that they are much more complex in their intelligence, their behavior and their problem-solving ability than I ever imagined," said Joe Hutto, a naturalist whose experience raising wild turkey chicks in the Florida Flatwoods was the subject of the award-winning PBS documentary My Life as a Turkey.
"They are sentient beings. By every measure and every definition of intelligence, in their environment and in their world they are without questions much more intelligent than I was."[Hutto was quoted in The Inner World of Farm Animals, by Amy Hatkoff.]
As the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote in his major work on ethics from 1839, On the Basis of Morality, "The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion in the only guarantee of morality."
For a truly compassionate season of giving and thanks, instead of eating a turkey, consider adopting one from Farm Sanctuary, which was founded in 1986 to fight the abuses of factory farming and encourage a new awareness and understanding about farm animals.
Ready to host a cruelty-free holiday celebration? Visit Eat Drink Better and Buzzfeed for tips and recipes.