Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I don’t fit into a mold. And I don’t fall into formation very easily. My whole life I have felt like I was observing our society from the outside. Or at least from the very edge, looking in. And most of what I see confounds me. 

I’m especially confounded by traditions. When people practice something for the simple and sole reason that they did so last year, and the year prior, and their grandparents did it, and before that, and so on. I’ve heard and believed for a long time that ‘tradition’ is one of the worse reasons there is for doing something. Like religion, tradition is dangerous in that people will mindlessly follow it without question or justification.

I pride myself on doing everything with consciousness and purpose. And it is important to me that the feelings I express and the actions I take come from a real truth inside of me, or I won’t do them. Because of this, I find myself hesitant to fall into the trappings of these traditions.

Many days that are designated as holidays carry with them lots of traditions that I witness masses of people following along with. I always felt uncomfortable with the fact that I was supposed to express love to my mother on the second Sunday in May, or that I was supposed to remember veterans in November and May and surprise my loved one with chocolate in February. I prefer to choose when I give my heartfelt sentiments, not to be told when and how. Thanksgiving Day is one of these days.

Knowing the history of the USA makes me ashamed. While I’m glad that I was born in and live in America, I’m certainly not proud of the country and the things it has done and is doing. It’s like having a big brother who’s a bully to kids in the schoolyard--you still love him, but he’s embarrassing.

So to spend a day devoted to the memory of our genocidal beginnings does not sit right with me. Since becoming an adult, I have learned that the images and the fairy tale we were told about the origins and purpose of the holiday are a gross misrepresentation of what really happened and I’m not cool with celebrating the reality of it.

So then people will tell me that it’s a day for giving thanks and spending with family and friends. And my answer to that is, “Yes, but so was yesterday.  And so is tomorrow.”
And wouldn’t it be more meaningful if it wasn’t on the calendar and expected of you to participate? 

When someone thanks you, it feels good because it comes from them; it is their truth and they chose to say it. But what if someone were reprimanded for not thanking you and told they they had to thank you. So you stand there, expecting it, waiting for it. And when they finally do, how does that gratitude feel?  Sincere?  No. Forced. Platitude gratitude.

That’s how I feel about all of the Thanksgiving Day sentiment. I’m not a grinch, but also I'm not impressed. I don’t disapprove of giving thanks, but when it comes as a response to what holiday it is, I don't feel it. I already live my whole life feeling grateful. I don’t need a day set aside for it. It’s kind of insulting, actually, to suggest that I need to be reminded to feel grateful.

And won’t someone please think about the turkeys? There are no humane regulations on the raising, shipping and slaughter of most of these poor creatures. Unfeeling, factory-type farms will spew out over 46 million turkeys this year who may have felt nothing but fear and pain their whole lives.



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Thanks to Bill Chameides at Duke-Nicholas School of the Environment for the following information:

 The Industrial Factory-Farmed Turkey
Most industrial turkeys are produced by a vertically integrated company, which owns the hatchery, feedmill, and processing plant, and contracts with a grower. Two companies (Nicholas and Hybrid Canada) control the genetic material for all broad-breasted, white turkeys.
Day 1 – Hatched. Our chick is put into a harness. Toenails and beak tip are zapped off with high-intensity light (essentially sunburned). The birds are vaccinated with aerosol spray and sorted by sex. Then they are shipped to a nearby contract farm (up to 6 hours away from the hatchery), 100 birds to a box.
At the Farm. The chick goes to a brooder barn where it is placed in a so-called brooder ring — 1,000 birds per ring and 10 rings to a barn. Their feed is a corn-and-soybean meal mash/crumble that is fortified with vitamins, minerals, low-level growth antibiotics, and, for a time, an additive that controls common parasitic disease.
The barn floor is covered with wood shavings, rice hulls, or other local materials to absorb waste. Lights extend daylight hours to keep birds eating.
Day 4 or 5. Brooder ring is removed. Our bird, now a hen, will remain inside until processing, where it is given about 0.7 square feet to strut its stuff — that’s a little more than a 6”x6” space. This will increase to about 1.5 square feet over its lifetime.
Week 12-13 or 16. Slaughter time depends upon size. A relatively small hen (around 14 lbs.) will be slaughtered in 12–13 weeks, a large one (18 lbs.) in about 16 weeks. The hens are rounded up, eight to a cage, and taken to be processed.
The Slaughter House. Our bird is shackled upside down to an automated conveyor where it is stunned, slaughtered, processed, and inspected. It is then placed in a chilled bath with disinfectant, some of which the turkey will absorb. The bird is then injected with saline solution, vegetable oils, and other additives to improve taste and texture. These plump the bird’s weight by about 7.5 percent.
That’s the life of the typical Thanksgiving turkey.
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  here is a link to PETA's take on it

I know that many people will read this and start defending their right to practice the holiday. But to that I say, there’s no need. Go ahead. No one is trying to take the holiday away from you. I’m only explaining here why I don’t participate.

I also feel like I have to mention another piece of evidence that people use traditions to divorce themselves from their own internal signals. That is the gluttony that is embraced on this holiday. It pains me to hear people talk about how they ate so much that they couldn’t fasten their pants or that they went into a food coma. Because of my profession and commitment to good health, I recognize the disordered behavior as unnecessary, decadent and dangerous. 

Equally, I’m disturbed by all of the people who are in the gym the next day ferociously ‘burning off their pumpkin pie’. In my mind it takes the celebration right out of the occasion and turns it into an opportunity for expressing food fear and body shaming. 

Even those who choose to follow a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal plan can do so without overeating. Simply take a small serving of each dish. A few bites of each will be plenty if there is a true bounty of offerings. There’s no need to stuff yourself. And one piece of dessert is fine. Don’t feel guilty about it or feel you have to work extra hard in the gym the next day as penance.

Here is the opinion of someone who also doesn’t celebrate the holiday, but for more political reasons. In addition to my personal bent, I choose not to turn a blind eye to this perspective and to be circumspect about my celebrations out of respect. One could just as easily consider today a memorial holiday. I feel more morally and spiritually aligned with honoring this reality than the traditional one.

So, while I’m grateful for everything I have in my life, my friends, my family, my health, my happiness, my material possessions and my spiritual connection to you and the whole universe, I’ll be having lasagna tonight.

Below I have included links to a few resources for anyone who's interested to begin investigating more humanely raised turkeys:
Local Harvest Turkeys
Animal Welfare Approved
Eat Well Guide




 Thank You!

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