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Some people find it really hard to do a vegan Thanksgiving.
It's not usually because it's hard to find delicious vegan holiday recipes, or because the food you make won't taste as good, or even because you feel like you're sacrificing your traditions for your beliefs.
Typically it's hard because of the people around you.
It's one thing if you get to host a vegan Thanksgiving and you're cooking all the food and in control over everything. Many of us get to celebrate in this amazing way, and we get to make our own Thanksgiving recipes and set our own traditions.
But, when you're new to the vegan diet, and when you're in someone else's home, it's hard to balance your ethics and lifestyle choices with being polite and not asking for the host to go out of their way to accommodate your needs. Even with family it can be a struggle to have your beliefs understood.
Thanksgiving is not about the food.
In the beginning, the food was just a way to enjoy the day properly. Over time, the holiday has evolved into a celebration of gluttony.
When you choose a compassionate celebration, you can't forget that before you picked it, you lived just like everyone else. You aren't judging anyone by choosing to eat a different way, and you aren't celebrating the day in a less spirited manner than anyone else just because you won't eat the main course.
It's supposed to be a time to share and be grateful for all that we are lucky enough to have. It should be a celebration of our independence and freedom. You have the choice to keep the meal centered on the positive, simply by focusing your energy on the right things.
With the right intention and spirit set for the day, you can make your vegan Thanksgiving a joyous occasion no matter what the setting. I try toremember all those out there who aren't able to have a full meal that day, or most days.
It doesn't hurt to bring along a dish or two that showcases how delicious vegan Thanksgiving food can be, and sharing that food with the people around you. After all, even if you don't want to discuss veganism that day, you can still "wow" people with your food!
While I find it hard to stop worrying and feeling sad for the birds being sacrificed across the country on this one day, I try to take a day off from discussing it with the other half of my family who will be at the table. Instead, I enjoy their company. Really, Thanksgiving never should have evolved to the slaughter-fest it is now; it really should always have been more about the company.
For almost all of us, avoiding animal products is a choice. We make that choice for a variety of reasons; ethical beliefs against eating animals, health decisions to prevent or cure disease, environmental concerns, or others.
It can be hard if you're asked to defend or explain your choices, especially if you're among a group of people who you don't know very well.
I choose not to make the holidays the time to convert people to veganism, although if they ask I may mention a few things. If someone says to me, "what's wrong with eating turkey?" (or milk/butter/cheese/etc) on a holiday, and especially around a group of people, I usually say, "Well, I believe there's a lot wrong with it. But, let's not talk about that right now. If you want to talk alone, we can do that in a little bit."
I have found that the people around me will relax, smile, and even occasionally say, "thank you for that." If that person truly wants to talk about it, I'll give them the facts about factory farms, but only when we are sitting alone, or just with people who choose to learn the truth.
Never forget that your choices are making a difference, and that amongst groups, you are representing us all. And, keep seeking to help.
I love to donate to a farm that rescues turkeys to celebrate vegan Thanksgiving. A great one is Farm Sanctuary, and they even have a program where you can pick a picture of a turkey and choose to "adopt" that particular turkey for the holidays. The proceeds all go towards helping the sanctuary to keep running its rescue programs.
If you've never had a chance to meet a turkey in person, you should try it one time. I visited a farm with a few cows, goats, chickens, ponies, and turkeys. It's always interesting to see small farms in action, and though we don't believe in taking the milk from the cows to feed humans or the eggs from the chickens, we love seeing the animals. So, we're always conflicted at small, organic farms. While they do nowhere near the harm that large factory farms do, they still exploit animals.
Ultimately, it’s just fun to learn more about the animal kingdom. I personally like to get up and personal with the animals and I usually leave feeling more connected. My husband likes to walk near other people and say "to me," about why we don't eat animals.
At one point, I was feeding some goats and a turkey poked his head through the group and pecked right at my palm. They are feisty little animals! Did you know that turkeys are sociable animals with personalities as individual as cats and dogs? They will chirp and sing along to music, and are, of course, capable of suffering.
The turkeys on this farm were nothing like the ones most people eat for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving turkeys from turkey farms are given hormones to increase the size of their breasts, so they then are so top-heavy they can't stand up, their limbs break, and then end up sitting in their feces and urine.
Thanksgiving turkeys never get to stretch their legs, flap their wings, or peck about in the soil for food. After living their short, miserable lives, Thanksgiving turkeys are killed by having their throats slit when they're still conscious, and then they're dunked in a boiling tank to remove their feathers. Many of them are still alive and aware, but not singing along with music anymore.
When you choose a vegan Thanksgiving, you choose not to take part in the ritual abuse and slaughter of these animals, and you should never forget that you are making a difference in their lives. Yes, you may choose to make some sacrifices that you would not normally make (like sitting at a table with a carcass as the center of attention), but you do that because you choose to focus on the joy of being with family and friends.