Thanksgiving with no turkeys

Over the last 18 months, I’ve tried really hard to be the vegan I was mentored to be: to oppose all hints of eating animals or wearing them or watching them at the circus because animals shouldn’t be tortured for entertainment.

But there was a problem stirring deep inside that I couldn’t identify until a few months ago. Let me back up to the summer.

I had the summer off from teaching dance and fully expected to go back in September. That didn’t happen for various reasons and I set out to look for a job. The job search was taking longer than expected so I went back to getting supplemental food from the parish food pantry. I’ve been so thankful for being able to use the food pantry and the overall generosity of the SS Philip and James family. It’s amazing!

On one of my trips to the food pantry, I was given a large number of frozen dinners, including a chicken dish and a lamb stew. But I wasn’t going to refuse it. I couldn’t. My family and I needed the food. And that’s when I realized what had been bothering me for so long.

I realized that everyone couldn’t be vegan. Some of us need to eat what we can get due to circumstances. I couldn’t tell a homeless person to be vegan because someone who is homeless and hungry has a ton of other things to worry about. How could I effectively minister to and cast my lot with the poor and marginalized if I act as though there is something wrong because a hungry person decided to eat a chicken wing.


 A male turkey from California. (Image from Yathin S Krishnappa on Wikipedia Commons)

Not only that, but just the title of “vegan” means more politically and socially than I care to be involved with. And who wants to wonder if one day your vegan membership card is going to be taken away from you because you accidently bought rice cheese with casein in it (shame on you for not diligently reading all of the ingredients).

So does that mean veganism is only for people wealthy enough to afford it? I don’t know. I do know that every day I still pray for the poor and marginalized who have to work in slaughterhouses – a line of work that tops any other industry for domestic violence, suicide attempts, and workplace illnesses and accidents.

That brings me back to the turkey. It’s a noble and wonderful bird and I love animals. But I’m not going to tell you not to eat turkey for Thanksgiving. What I am going to urge you to do is make sure your Thanksgiving is healthy and family-oriented.

Will I eat the turkey? No. But that’s because meat doesn’t do anything for me and I’m lactose intolerant. Almost like a vegan by default!

Perhaps, this year, or another, you could add some delicious fall dishes to the menu you’ve never tried before. Will my decision not to eat turkey keep one alive? Maybe not. But I’m just glad for the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving and I pray that the homeless and needy are able to find a place to eat and enjoy someone’s company come Turkey Day.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.