*hey dudes scroll down! read Pt. 1 first!
“At the center of our Thanksgiving tables is an animal that never breathed fresh air or saw the sky until it was packed away for slaughter. At the end of our forks is an animal that was incapable of reproducing sexually. In our bellies is an animal with antibiotics in its belly. The very genetics of our birds are radically different. If the pilgrims could have seen into the future, what would they have thought of the turkey on our table?” – Foer
I am vegan because I believe my diet should reflect my core values, and genuine concern for the well being of all living things on this planet.
It is not to be denied that it is ingrained in our culture to have a big Thanksgiving dinner with a plump turkey. But that’s not all! This Thanksgiving will be the first without any of my family around. It’s kind of odd but it couldn’t be avoided as I work the day before and the day after Thanksgiving and it’s just not enough time for me to drive down to Houston and back to Austin in one day. When I was younger I always got really really excited about Thanksgiving because it meant my little family (me, my mom and Charlie, my stepdad) got to actually spend time with our extended family. We never lived near to any of them. It was pretty much just us in Colorado Springs and definitely when we lived in Kansas City for those six years. This had always really bothered me because I felt so isolated and I’ve always loved having lots of family around at those dinners. This year, when I thought I might have the opportunity to jump down to Houston, I told my Aunt (right after she went on about how they ordered a turkey and honey-baked ham with all the fixins) that I was now vegan. She didn’t miss a beat and said she would make whatever I wanted without any animal products and I was delighted! And surprised. However, I knew that if I had gone down there I would have been bombarded with questions and I would have to deal with feeling like I wasn’t exactly included in the Turkey-Day fellowship. It’s hard to explain but I don’t think I’m the only vegan who would identify.
“Sharing food generates good feelings and creates social bonds.” -Foer (I’m so predictable) The classic dilemma that vegans (and vegetarians) now face is: How much do I value creating a socially comfortable situation, and how much do I value acting socially responsible? I think I might have gotten lucky with my aunt being so understanding. She knew I had been vegetarian/selective omnivore at times. But I don’t come from a particularly carnivorous family either. After all, my mom has been vegetarian forever so she’s been dealing with this whole “table fellowship” issue for awhile. She gave great advice though saying, “Never apologize for not eating animals.” And I won’t. Because if I had stated I was vegan and went to dinner and said, “Oh well, I might as well, there isn’t really anything else to eat and I feel weird. Pass the turkey, please.” Then how can I expect to be taken seriously as a vegan? How much confidence can I have in my decision to live as a vegan in a non-vegan world? How much faith can I have in my values when I can’t find the nerve to stand up for them with my own family? I have friends whom I can imagine not being well-received if they told their family they were vegan around Thanksgiving. A couple of those friends might wish to become vegan or vegetarian but are worried about their family’s reaction. Totally understandable. However, there comes a point when you have to be honest with yourself and find the strength to be honest with everyone else. You can’t think of yourself as “being difficult” around dinner with the fam or worry about coming across as disrespectful by not eating your aunt’s honey-baked ham (with all the fixins). You need to learn how to communicate your gratitude (IT IS THANKSGIVING!) but explain, even if simply, why you made your decision to stop consuming any animal product. People will be curious, but unfortunately people will also give you snide remarks, insults, sarcastic remarks and of course try to point out any hypocrisy you might be demonstrating. (i.e. that leather belt is your only belt and you can’t really afford to get a new faux one at this point). That’s all fine. Like I said in my last post, I refuse to be the unhappy and deprived vegan at the meaty dinner. Be real and bring a delicious vegan dish that is sure to be a hit. People have all sorts of misconceptions about veganism so it might be surprising to show up with a culinary masterpiece. And eye-opening.
A compassionate Thanksgiving is as good as it gets and gives us lots to be thankful for. Hopefully you learned something from the commercial farming of turkeys. It’s ridiculously sad and I will never contribute to that fucked up industry again. Even if you won’t ever be going vegetarian or vegan, realize what atrocities exist right under our noses but so carefully hidden.
Start a new tradition.
Ending things on a cheerful note:
“Ditch the “vegan warrior” rhetoric and understand these are just normal people driven by compassion.”
-Walter Bond (ALF activist… more on him the next post)