Our Thanksgiving Tradition: Turkey Adoption

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Our Thanksgiving Tradition: Turkey Adoption

2020-02-22T00:20:48+00:00November 12th, 2012|Blog, Issues|9 Comments

There are a few posts I recycle annually, this Thanksgiving piece being one of them. Farm Sanctuary, where we’ve “adopted” our turkeys in previous years by making a donation, was the first farm sanctuary I learned about years ago when I was looking for a more animal-friendly way to celebrate the holiday with friends and family. Hugh and I are the only ones in our families who celebrate Thanksgiving this way, but we’re used to being outliers in one form or another and me, in particular, with my perspective on nonhuman animals.

There are quite a few farm sanctuaries around the country, all of which rescue and advocate on behalf of domestic animals. Last month, I read a book by the founder of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, Jenny Brown. The book — The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals — balances hope against reality by interspersing stories of hardship with stories of rescue and recovery.

Brown talks about her childhood battle with cancer and the subsequent amputation of her leg, and how her own life experience led her to advocate and fight for the animals in her midst. Brown tells of the animals who’ve come to the sanctuary, what they endured before, how they thrive in their new lives, and she also ties in their stories with the realities of industrial farming. That balance is precisely what makes this book readable. It speaks the truth while alleviating the difficult, emotional passages with stories of redemption. (The Christian Science Monitor published a nice review here.)

My eating “low on the food chain” as Hugh likes to call it, stemmed years ago from my life-long affiliation with animals and their experiences. As with all perceptions on life, mine is ever-evolving, hopefully for the better. I always say that if five or ten years from now, I look back on my understanding today as hopelessly rudimentary, that would at least suggest progress. One thing that’s remained the consistent is our Thanksgiving turkey tradition: Here’s my blurb on adopted turkeys from years past — “Faye,” “Hawthorn” — and our 2012 turkey “Victoria”:

Wild Turkey Hunkered Down

Wild Turkey in Berkeley

Quite a few years ago, Hugh and I started our Thanksgiving tradition of adopting a turkey from Farm Sanctuary. We’ve always been urban dwellers, so actual adoption isn’t an option. But, Farm Sanctuary offers remote adoptions of their rescued turkey folk.

Although Farm Sanctuary has a reasonably high profile through their advocacy work and their shelters in both New York and California, if you haven’t heard about them and you have some interest in the welfare of farm animals, take a look at the beautiful things they do for domestic animals.

[Their website also has a short piece, The History of Thanksgiving, which discusses the evolution of this holiday and how turkey came to be the de facto dish in the mid-1900s.]

According to Farm Sanctuary, between 250 and 300 million turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving celebrations. Adopting one rescued bird seems like the proverbial drop in the ocean. But as Hugh always likes to say, an individual act of kindness matters to that individual animal.

Last year, our individual animal was Faye. I clicked the “choose for us” option and our Adopt-a-Turkey certificate arrived with Faye’s picture and a short description of her former life. She was rescued from a Northwest Airlines cargo disaster. This year, it’s Hawthorn, a turkey found wandering outside a factory farm in Southern California.

Our Adopt-a-Turkey Hawthorn

Our Adopt-a-Turkey Hawthorn

We’ve observed, over the years, a variety of alternative Thanksgiving celebrations, owing to our appreciation of turkeys and their many modern travails. But it wasn’t until we discovered Farm Sanctuary’s program that a consistent Thanksgiving ritual was born in our small household.

Thank you to all of the farm sanctuaries who put faces and experiences on animals who would otherwise be invisible.

Quark Posts About Turkeys (the wild ones): Don’t Trust the Photographer | The Turkeys I’ve [Almost] Known


  1. Bea Elliott November 16, 2012 at 8:53 am - Reply

    What a striking fellow at Berkeley – And Hawthorn sure is a handsome guy too!

    I hope you have an abundant and wonderful ThanksLiving Day – For surely compassion is much to be grateful for!

    • ingrid November 26, 2012 at 2:24 am - Reply

      Bea, I miss the Berkeley turkeys. I knew the spots where I could find them just as the sun was going down. I’d sometimes see them crossing busy streets as well. I have yet to see a Wild Turkey in Seattle and don’t expect to. The Bay Area, for all of its urban development, is such a haven of protected green spaces and wildlife sanctuary.

  2. M. Firpi November 16, 2012 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    Thanks for bringing this up again. I’ve had wonderful photographic sessions with domesticated turkeys that never got killed. I’ve always been marvelled by their colors and textures.

    • ingrid November 26, 2012 at 2:25 am - Reply

      Maria, I’d love to spend more time with domestic turkeys. In the best of all worlds, I could manifest my own sanctuary and I haven’t given up hope of that … someday. Have you posted any of your turkey images at your blog or elsewhere? I need to go look!

      • M. Firpi November 26, 2012 at 3:48 am - Reply

        Yes, I posted them here: https://birdsfromthecaribbean.blogspot.com/2012/11/domestic-turkeys-that-never-got-killed.html
        Being from the city, I never really had a chance to see the wild ones, although I see them in other people’s blogs. Long ago I was fortunate enough to have a man at a private farm show me his male and female turkey couple and told me he kept those for educational purposes such as bringing children in to see them. He never did commercial farming and he went as far as eating eggs and drinking milk only.

        • CQ November 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm - Reply

          Oh, my, your Caribbean birds blogspot is filled with gorgeous wonders, Maria. The turkeys and your comments on them are lovely.

          Why would it be “anthropomorphic” to call a turkey proud? Please don’t apologize for being truthful! We can see with our own eyes, not to mention our hearts, that many animals — maybe all animals — have a wide range of deep feelings and thoughts. Our culture is so stupidly human-centered, it tries to instill shame in those who acknowledge that nonhumans are resplendent with fine qualities. I say “shame on society”! 🙂

          You mention “eating eggs and drinking milk only,” Maria. Do you mean this dear man had a cow and chickens? What did he do with the cow’s babies — especially the males?

          In the U.S., commercial egg operations and commercial dairies are frighteningly abusive to the chickens and cows, respectively. Removing day-old calves from their moms causes them both untold anguish. And, of course, the “spent” hens and bovines are always mercilessly slaughtered; the process, from what I’ve seen and from what I can imagine, is agonizing. These animals never have a moment’s peace, freedom, pleasure, joy.

          Come to think of it, why would humans be created with a need to drink the milk that belongs to another species? After all, they have their OWN mothers’ milk and are weaned from it, just like every nonhuman youngster? Do you suppose there’s a bit of human exceptionalism/supremacy and greed at play in these culturally ingrained habits? (Sorry to get off-topic, but the subject is important to me. Thank you for caring, too.)

          • M. Firpi November 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm - Reply

            CQ wrote:
            “Come to think of it, why would humans be created with a need to drink the milk that belongs to another species? After all, they have their OWN mothers’ milk and are weaned from it, just like every nonhuman youngster?”

            Talk about “culturally ingrained habits”, I’m not going to get into as to why I brought on the “milk” and “eggs” subject to my narrative, but if for any reason that concerns us, this was a very humble fellow who let me in his small farm to photograph his precious turkeys. If his level of vegetarianism is not up to par with those of the U.S., it is because Puerto Rico is still a third world country in many levels. My blog’s purpose is to also unravel some of the truth that prevails in some impoverished and underprivileged families in Puerto Rico. In saying this I’m in no way justifying what kind of milk or protein they ingest and how they are obtaining it. I will however have to add details to accurately describe their current social reality.

            You also wrote:

            “Do you suppose there’s a bit of human exceptionalism/supremacy and greed at play in these culturally ingrained habits?

            It used to be called “survival”, rather than “greed”. Hunters and gatherers became nomads and developed this “partnership” with “domestic” animals. Nomads took these animals everywhere they went. Now I agree with you that in this space and time it’s GREED and SUPREMACY. Just how does one uproot this dependency on domestic animals is an educational process that is ongoing and tedious. Start with the word “domestic”. What can anyone tell me about that? Do animals need to own anything at all? I don’t think so!!

  3. CQ November 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    I’m glad that, on his adoption certificate, Hawthorn doesn’t mean that he enjoys “food . . . of all species” — just “friends of all species.” Unless, of course, he’s talking about flora species! 🙂

    Blessings to Faye, Hawthorn and now Victoria, who remind me of pumpkin-pie-gobbling turkeys Sammi and Aya (see, in http://www.CreatureQuotes.com‘s Chapter 18, the photo at the bottom of page 15 and the photo credit on page 90).

    And belated Thanksgiving blessings to you and Hugh, two attached-to-all-animals “outliers” who, in your unassuming, gentle way, are helping elevate society’s ethics toward fellow-beings of all species — fauna species, that is.

    P.S. I remember that CSMonitor.com lovely review of Jenny Brown’s book, though I have yet to read “The Lucky Ones.” Soon!

    • ingrid November 26, 2012 at 2:27 am - Reply

      Thanks, CQ. Sorry for the delayed reply to your Thanksgiving wishes! They were much appreciated.

      Yes, I really liked “The Lucky Ones” for the reasons I mentioned. It’s a book I would recommend to people who have no clue about commercial farming, because she lays the difficult truth in between happy stories of her rescues. I think that’s an effective medium for the message.

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