Today was the day I decided to write my annual Thanksgiving blog. I usually talk about redefining tradition, questioning the hand-me-down rituals we were born into, and contemplating how a more evolved world might choose to celebrate a holiday centered around gratitude, love and well-being. The topic has been on the back burner of my brain these past few days, and I’ve been thinking a lot about our various traditions this time of year. In fact, I had a great time at the annual Thankful Turkeys Celebration at Animal Acres last Saturday and really recognized that, with over 300 people now celebrating Thanksgiving a few days early with entirely vegan food, we were all part of a new LA-area tradition, now four years strong. It was a beautiful thing.
Also, it has occurred to me: for as steadfast as I am in my convictions about veganism, I recognize that it wasn’t always this way for me, just as it might not currently be for many of you; my dear readers. Hell, I come from a family of devout hunters and fishermen. I know the deal. Some of my greatest childhood memories were fishing with my dad on the glassy lakes of Conroe, Texas.
And my grandfather on my dad’s side? Shit. You couldn’t find a more dedicated or prolific outdoorsman than Leavy Brock. He was like a wise old Zen master, the way he would quietly lead us through the woods, shotguns in hand, mindful and observant of every plant, tree, critter and paw print in our midst. His reverence and respect for nature was awe-inspiring. Of course, for most animal advocacy folks, it is incomprehensible how anyone could revere nature on one hand, and kill any part of it with the other. BUT – that’s the point I think I’m trying to make here. I believe I have great empathy for so many who are comfortably in the routine of those cultural traditions. How could I not? I was, as well (to a large degree), until I was in my late 20’s.
But then…I began to question them.
Outrage, Anger and the New “Dreaded Comparison”
So…with all of this in mind, I was ready to step into a nice flow of consciousness and see what I could come up with. But before I even had a chance to sit down and philosophize with the ol’ laptop tonight, I’ve had to taste the bitter irony of a particularly disturbing news item from Nepal. It’s been brewing for weeks, but finally busted wide open today, as a handful of e-mails hit my inbox to remind me.
I’m speaking, of course, of the Gadhimai festival: a “centuries-old” Hindu ritual that honors the goddess, Gadhimai, through massive animal sacrifice every five years.
Hundreds of thousands of Hindus were on hand earlier today near a temple in Nepal as over 200,000 animals (mainly buffaloes, goats, chickens and pigeons) had their throats slit by sword-weilding butchers. Why? Because it is believed that this goddess will bless their lives with good luck and prosperity, if they sacrifice the lives of innocent animals.
How fucking ridiculous.
And that seemed to be the consensus for many who heard about this…especially those who took the time to e-mail me. After all, we see it as senseless and absurd…an archaic tradition born multiple generations ago, when a far less evolved consciousness governed the world.
And then it hit me.
Could there possibly be a connection – on any level – between the Gadhimai tradition that those people practice, and the Thanksgiving Day tradition that our people practice?
Think about it.
Although Thanksgiving didn’t take root as an official annual holiday in our culture until 1863, we all know the origins: In the fall of 1621, it was a three-day celebration that the pilgrims put together for their Indian friends, who had saved their asses from a failed harvest and taught them how to survive in the New World. The celebratory food included many of the regional favorites from those times (which, by the way, many historians believe included mainly deer and fish, and not turkey).
Eventually, of course, a unified culinary theme took shape, and the poor turkey was to be designated as the traditional animal of choice for this meal…as opposed to being America’s national bird (instead of the eagle) as Ben Franklin suggested.
So now, we have our tradition. And it includes artificially breeding and housing these intelligent beings in barbaric living quarters 24/7…
And…instead of slitting their throats out in public like those “vile Nepalese motherfuckers,” we just hang them upside down and have assembly line-style machinery do it for us, behind closed doors.
Mind you, all of this is carried out for us in the name of a holiday that’s all about the celebration of friends, family, love and appreciation.
How fucking ridiculous.
Now, before everyone goes nuclear on me for drawing this parallel, I’ll remind you; all of those animals sacrificed in Nepal were ultimately eaten by the participants, so this wasn’t JUST an episode of mass murder for the symbology of it. They basically cut their animal’s throats, then ate ‘em, just as our culture does. But because they did it out in public – and for reasons that we think are preposterous – we condemn their behavior without even taking a closer look at our own. Additionally…
- They killed over 200,000 animals this year for their tradition, while we will kill 50 million of ours (and that’s just turkeys).
- Many of their animals were part of a more traditional family farm environment, right up until sacrifice time. 99% of ours lived in cramped, unnatural and deplorable conditions as part of the factory farming industry. (Most of the remaining 1% – who come from “free range” and more “natural” farms – actually do not fare much better and often wind up at the slaughterhouse for “processing,” anyway.)
- These people engaged in prayer and “holy ritual” before the killing began; I don’t think the average slaughterhouse employee could say the same.
Now – just to be clear – I AM IN NO WAY TRYING TO AGGRANDIZE OR EVEN JUSTIFY THE LUNACY THAT WENT ON IN NEPAL! I’m merely offering a devil’s advocate perspective so, perhaps, we won’t continue to aggrandize and justify what WE do. Accept the notion or reject the notion as you wish. But, at the very least, consider all that I’m saying here and simply ask, “If I am appalled by the tragic and brutal loss of life over there, why am I not appalled by the tragic and brutal loss of life over here?”
On a Brighter Note…
Let’s finish up with a few links and a quick vid of some of my turkey pals from Animal Acres. They are such interesting, lucid and unique beings. None of them deserve to die for someone’s dinner, any more than a dog, cat, or any other animal being would. And while I refuse to turn my eyes away from the carnage that I know will be going down on Thursday, these are the critters I will try to focus on. The lucky ones who remind us all of the preciousness of every life.
Many blessings and good times to you and yours this holiday season. Here are a few links for more food for thought, and alternative foods to eat!;
Special Holiday Message Page: http://www.veggiezone.com/thanksgiving
Alicia Silverstone’s (The Kind Life) Thanksgiving Blogs (Lottsa good food inspiration!)