The Unethical Truth About Thanksgiving
In the U.S. Thanksgiving is a day of celebration, where people spend time with family, attend parades, host parties, and eat lots of food.
Some school children wear headdresses with feathers, while others make black construction paper hats to resemble the first pilgrims who made contact with the Native Americans.
But while some aspects of this historic meeting are probably true, there’s a gaping hole in the history of Thanksgiving as presented in schools. Facts have been tweaked and twisted over generations, leaving us with a totally different idea when compared to the reality of the event.
What Really Happened?
Thanksgiving actually revolved around an act of religious observances; an occasion where people came together to forge strong spiritual bonds with one another. Today, however, the entire festival revolves around eating turkey.
In summary, the story goes like this.
When the English pilgrims landed up in Plymouth back in 1620, they were unable to adapt to the new land. They were attacked by some of the native tribes and many succumbed to diseases that their bodies were not used to fighting.
Finally, a Native American tribe known as the Wampanoags offered the new arrivals an alliance to help them adapt to the land and keep them safe from rival tribes. This initial alliance was celebrated with a feast which is often (though not accurately) regarded as the first Thanksgiving feast.
However, after the initial alliance the European pilgrims began to colonize the tribes and lands around them, exploiting resources that the Native Americans had used for generations. The tension between the two parties erupted into war which permanently shifted the balance of power in favor of the new settlers.
The Europeans killed millions of Native Americans over the years and shipped thousands back to parts of Europe, to be sold as slaves.
So while the first feast was perhaps a joyous occasion, it was actually the start of centuries of oppression, exploitation, and racism, the repercussions of which can still be felt today.
Over time, these heinous acts, while mentioned from time to time, somehow faded from the history books and only the feast has been remembered and celebrated as Thanksgiving.
It Gets Worse…
While holding a festival that represents exploitation seems strange enough, the manner in which it is carried out is incredibly cruel.
Every year, almost 100 million turkeys are slaughtered as a ‘necessary’ part of every Thanksgiving celebration. The poor creatures are stuffed and kept in deplorable conditions so they can be turned into a centerpiece for an occasion whose origins bear a cruel past.
Turkeys are actually quite varied in their personalities, and love playing, being stroked, and taking care of their young; much like the cats and dogs we adore.
It’s cruel to take such a gentle, innocent creature and force it to live a short 2 or 3 years on a factory farm simply so it can be turned into a centerpiece at the dinner table.
Of course, turkey isn’t the only thing on the menu at Thanksgiving; other animals are consumed as well, along with large helpings of cream, butter, cheese and any other dairy product you can think of.
There’s Another Problem
Researchers have found that the occurrence of heart attacks and strokes tends to spike around holiday season, particularly in the days after Thanksgiving.
A regular diet of meat and dairy can lead to the buildup of plaque (fatty deposits) in the arteries which can lead to a clog in blood vessels, resulting in a stroke or a heart attack.
And during Thanksgiving the consumption of meat and dairy tends to skyrocket. And this consumption pattern continues for a few days after, thanks to all the leftovers and the fact that it’s still holiday season.
Additionally people tend to put away a lot of food during one of these holiday meals and this leads to an increase in the secretion of adrenaline. This rise in adrenaline leads to a rise in blood pressure, which significantly increases the risk of a stroke.
So aside from the millions of innocent birds being slaughtered, thousands of humans also suffer the consequences of a rich Thanksgiving dinner.
You Can Still Celebrate
Thanksgiving can still be a day for family to get together and celebrate the connection they share, but the reason for and the method of celebration need to evolve. Perhaps as more people become aware of the dark truth behind Thanksgiving the meaning itself will change and we can celebrate for different reasons.
But we need no ‘reason’ to stop killing turkeys; just a little compassion is enough. They are sentient beings who share the planet with us and to take one’s life just to (dis)grace our dinner tables is a cruel, unethical, and outdated practice.
Instead, get with the times and plan a plant-based Thanksgiving feast for your friends and relatives to enjoy. It’s ethical, healthy, and can actually help transform why we celebrate Thanksgiving in the first place. You could even call it a ‘Thanksliving’ feast!
So, here’s to a Happy Thanksliving!