When the thought of Thanksgiving crosses the mind of many Americans, one of the dishes that is greatly remarked and noted is the all-important Thanksgiving turkey. The ever-going effects of this favorite Thanksgiving meal in its whole is rarely thought of but a very large contribution to the ever-growing issues of animal abuse and mass production issues.
Every year, about 45 million turkeys are produced to fit the dire need for this holiday favorite, many of the birds coming from states such as North Carolina, Minnesota, and California. Most, if not all, of the places these birds are being produced are factory farms, buildings that confine a large quantity of animals into tight spaces to increase financial gain. The production of turkey in these factory farms is a vile and disgusting sight, the farms being one of the worst living conditions for an animal.
According to an article from PETA regarding the turkey industry, turkeys are “hatched in large incubators and never see their mothers or feel the warmth of their nest.” These birds are also almost immediately thrown into harsh living conditions, being crammed into dark and tight spaces, beaten by workers, and drugged to be the desired weight and size for the “perfect holiday turkey”.
While these revolting surroundings are instigated to grow the number of ready-to-eat turkeys, due to the living state, the turkey population is actually decreasing. Since there is a need for the birds to be of a larger, more enjoyable size, many turkeys become overweight, leaving them with unfortunate defects and weakened organs, which in turn results in a multitude of deaths. Some young birds also get overly stressed with the environment, many times leading to starvation, and ultimately, death.
Another contributor to this drop in turkeys are bird flus, a more current one being the deadly infection known as the Eurasian H5N1 avian influenza, a disease that killed over 36 million chickens and turkeys between February and April of 2022. This infection was first discovered all the way back in 1878, and can be spread from bird to bird through saliva and feces quickly. Although the virus itself is incredibly dangerous to the birds, factory farm owners have seemingly posed more of a threat, killing large numbers of flocks through variations of gas and extreme heat when they find even one bird contracted the virus.
Fortunately, there have been some positives to the situation. Many places like Farm Sanctuary, Human Farming Association, and The Human League have made actions to prevent the slaughtering of turkeys and other farm animals in factory farms. Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt a turkey Project even allows you to “adopt” a turkey, providing the rescued animal with food and medical necessities at its new home.
So, the real question is: what can you do to help? While you can just stay away from turkey in general this holiday season, you can also take the alternative route of researching and finding food brands that may use terms like “American Grassfed” or “100% Grassfed” to ensure the animal was not produced in an awful environment. It is also beneficial to buy from small farms that are family-owned or farmer’s markets, not only guaranteeing that your turkey was raised in a nicer environment, but also supporting small business.
With the recent findings of factory farms and their roles in holidays in general, it is clear that, whether we like it or not, they will most likely always be present. However, with enough awareness and care, it is possible that we can stop the use of these farms and provide a safer, less disturbing environment for all, not just the turkeys.