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What if we took the turkey out of Thanksgiving? 

Consider your relationship with animals this season

It is that time of year again: the holiday season. Thanksgiving is the time when we should take stock of our lives and give gratitude for all that we have. What a novel concept—as opposed to other holidays where we take stock of what we might perceive we don’t have and demand more and more. It is my favorite holiday. I love the idea and task of focusing on all that I am grateful for.

Nobody is excluded from celebrating Thanksgiving. The holiday doesn’t belong to one particular group of people, other than Americans. Yet there is that one animal that might not be so happy about Thanksgiving: the turkey. My family and some friends find it comical that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday when I don’t partake in the primary ceremonial task of cooking and eating a turkey, because I have been a vegetarian for 10 years. However, I remind them that the focus is on the bountiful harvest and the thanks. I don’t claim to know all the history of the holiday and how it has evolved, but it has always been tradition at the meal to give thanks.

What if we took the turkey out of Thanksgiving? Would most people feel that it isn’t Thanksgiving without the turkey? A new animated film called Free Birds is proposing that question. Some people may choose not to go there; others might dare to think about it, maybe continue to think about it; and some might answer it by foregoing the turkey. What is our relationship with animals? Do some deserve our generosity while others don’t? Is this how it has always been, so it is how it may or should continue to be?

Animals have this way of confronting us with certain truths, our habits, and our values. How they are treated is a reflection of how our society or culture is functioning, which certainly fluctuates. My grandmother’s generation couldn’t afford to eat meat. They ate beans. They weren’t educated about cholesterol. We are all now very familiar with the term. Some of the elite of our present society are deciding to opt out of meat. Whether they are doing so for their health, the animals, or the environment—or all three—is difficult to know, but interesting to watch. Some of us are certainly asking the hard questions.

What is your relationship with animals?


Tara Jacobi lives in San Luis Obispo. Send comments to the executive editor at

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