Why We’re Not Vegan: PETA & Thanksgiving

First of all, PETA, that turkey image you’ve superimposed on that Jack Russell terrier is a Royal Palm. They’re ornamental. You can eat them, I suppose, and some Royal Palm breeders do eat their excess males but there is so little meat it’s really not worth the time to butcher them to begin with. The mass murdering of Royal Palms for Thanksgiving isn’t a real problem.

In fact, the only mass murdering — if we’re going to call it murdering; and I am, just to humor you — of turkeys for Thanksgiving of any notable number is that of Broad Breasted Whites. Ahhhh, Broad Breasted Whites. They’re not a really a breed of turkey, PETA. You should already know that, but it’s clear by your ignorance-revealing photo-shop skills that you don’t. So allow me to explain. Broad Breasted Whites are not a breed, they’re a commercial strain of turkey that was developed as a hybrid. They’ve been genetically selected for generations to produce a thick, meaty carcass in (relative to other types of turkeys) little time and with as little feed as possible. And their exclusion from the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection certainly isn’t all that sets them apart from other turkeys.

Anatomically, Broad Breasted Whites are barely even comparable to “normal” turkeys. Having shorter legs and breast bones combined with their genetic predisposition to put on breast meat like their sole purpose in life is to compete with Pamela Anderson in a titties competition makes them virtually unable to mate naturally. They’re produced primarily — and by that I mean almost exclusively save perhaps a couple of fringe hobby farmers who like to experiment — in laboratories where semen must be collected from the Toms (that’s the term used for mature male turkeys, PETA, since you probably don’t know that either) and used to artificially inseminate the hens.

Their inability to reproduce naturally isn’t their only limitation either. Because of their size — left to grow out as long as a heritage type of turkey (that’s the umbrella term under which breeds such as the Royal Palm fall), their carcasses can easily reach dressed weights of more than forty pounds — they require much more intensive rearing practices to avoid leg strain that can result in inability to walk, heart strain that can quickly kill them and breast sores from the tremendous amount of weight that rests atop them day in and day out. Because they’re too large to fly they cannot roost like other turkeys which also makes them more prone to predation in setups other than the closed, secure barns of the commercial farms they’re specialized for. And I assure you being eaten alive by a raccoon is not nearly as pleasant a death as a quick slit of the throat.

But let’s pretend for a moment that you know even a modicum about that which you purport to be advocating. Let’s make believe not only that Broad-Breasted Whites would exist — and continue to exist — without significant human intervention, but that other types of turkeys are being slaughtered in large numbers every year for Thanksgiving and therefore your shock-jockery is relevant. It’s not, but we have imaginations. Let’s use them.

Where, exactly, do you think all these turkeys are going to live when everyone “goes vegan”? On your wishy-washy, touchy-feely “Farm Animal Sanctuaries? The whole handful of them that you’ve got scattered across the country? Don’t make me spit out my drink, PETA. How many animals do you think these sanctuaries can support? Do you think the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy exists for no reason? Have you ever taken even five seconds to actually research a couple of livestock breeds? I don’t even care which species. Just take a few minutes and actually read about the history of some of America’s livestock breeds. You know, those that you like to use in your ads because they’re so sweet and cute and lovable.

I’ll tell you where, they wouldn’t. What you advocate for isn’t compassion, it’s the mass extinction of millions of animals. What you advocate for won’t save anyone or anything. What will we do when all of those genetics are ancient history because we’re too busy stuffing our faces with spinach and ignorance, justifying our hand in their demise under the guise of kindness? There are already hundreds of breeds of livestock struggling with critically low populations, on the verge of extinction because people stopped eating them.

So no, despite your requests, my kids won’t be going vegan this Thanksgiving. Because they understand these things. They have been raised on a farm — and yes, they’ve seen an animal or five hundred meet their end. They have not derived their sole education about the food system and their sustenance choices from Food Inc. and a handful of undercover videos that show what we already know, that there are bad people in this world who do bad things; but fail to tell the rest of the story, that those bad people do not necessarily represent all the people. (Videos that prey on what consumers who do not have intimate knowledge of livestock production do not know of livestock, I might add. But that’s another post for another day.)

The commercial agriculture system in America leaves plenty of room for improvement; extremism is not improvement. You want to help animals, PETA? Allocate half the time you currently spend on fear mongering and dissemination of misinformation to educating yourselves.

Image via PETA.org

After getting many responses to her post, Diana wrote a follow up at her place, which you can find here.

  • You. Are. Awesome.

  • Thanks, Jenn.

  • Liz

    Good food for thought, Diana! [ducks to avoid flying turkeys]

    • Now I have an image in my head of Turkeys flying around the kitchen. Hehe.

  • Found this from a friend’s facebook post – WTG. Thank you for making the point that just because we choose to eat meat we’re not all innocent baby-animal murderers. Looking forward to my turkey!

    • Enjoy your Thanksgiving, Jenn!

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