The Eagle and the Turkey – a Tale of Two Birds

Eagle headTurkey headThose concerned with animal welfare often ask the following question: isn’t it kind of arbitrary the way we care for, love, and protect some animals, such as cats and dogs, while allow others such as cows, pigs and chickens to be raised under harsh conditions, only to be slaughtered under even worse circumstances?
The same questions can be asked of the American bald eagle and the Thanksgiving turkey.The eagle is protected by an impressive set of laws. Killing one is punishable by a $5,000 fine and a year in prison. Just owning or selling one, or even just one of its eggs, is punishable by a $5,000 fine. It lives free across the nation, and when its habitat was threatened laws and regulations were enacted so that it could thrive. We honor eagles symbolically and refer to them positively such as eagle scout or legal eagle. Officers, such as colonels, displays them on their uniforms.
But what about the turkey? Well, it hasn’t been so fortunate. There are almost no laws protecting poultry such as turkeys. Wild turkeys and farm raised turkeys have very different lives. Wild turkeys can live up to 12 years, weigh about 18 pounds, and spend their days foraging for food. By contrast, a turkey on a factory farm lives only about 136 days, is stuffed to weigh 35 pounds and is anything but a free bird.  With as many as 10,000 birds packed into a single factory building, turkeys are confined in cages so tightly that they can’t even turn around. Most spend their entire lives without ever setting foot outdoors. The slaughterhouse is even worse and many die en route. The ones who make it alive are shackled upside down by their feet for slaughter while they are still alive and fully conscious. We raise over 300 million turkeys each year. An estimated 45 million turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving alone. So little regard is given to turkeys that we even use the word “turkey” as an insult. This is a particular shame considering that founding father Ben Franklin thought that they should have been our national bird.
Not only is this sad situation bad for turkeys, it is also bad for us and our environment. Turkeys have most of the drawbacks that other livestock do. They are loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol, their tissue concentrates many cancer- causing chemicals, and they harbor antibiotic-resistant bacteria. We waste food for their feed that could have been fed much more efficiently to people, especially the world’s hungry. They also produce massive amounts of water pollution and contribute to global warming.

Fortunately, there are better options to be eaten and enjoyed this Thanksgiving than turkey. The Northwest is home to two of the most popular and best-tasting Thanksgiving turkey alternatives around: Tofurky and Field Roast…Yum. With Tofurky you’ll get a turkey-like look, taste and texture that comes with both stuffing and gravy. While Tofurky is traditional in style, there’s not an ounce of any animal products in it. Field Roast features their somewhat sophisticated Celebration Roast, with an intriguing blend of herbs and spices, which is getting rave reviews from coast to coast. If you’d like to enjoy fine dining at home, Celebration Roast is a gourmet choice. If you prefer to create your own feast, see our popular Veg-Feasting Cookbook for some delicious recipes to make at home. Happy Thanksgiving.


About Vegetarians of Washington

Vegetarians of Washington is a large non-profit vegetarian society based in Seattle, WA. We encourage people to discover the advantages and experience the pleasures of vegetarian food. We welcome everyone, whether you're an experienced vegetarian, a beginner or just curious. You don't have to be a vegetarian to join our organization, or to follow our blog! We run the largest vegetarian food festival in the country, Seattle's Vegfest, held in the Seattle Center in March each year. We also host monthly dining events and give free nutrition and cooking classes. We've written several nationally published books, including our latest book "In Pursuit of Great Food: A Plant-based shopping guide", which provides valuable information on what to buy and how to choose great food. Our other books include "Say No to Meat" which gives the information and real-world advice that new vegetarians need the most, in an easy question-and-answer style, the fact-filled "The Vegetarian Solution", and a wide range of delicious recipes in "The Veg-Feasting Cookbook". All our books are available in local bookstores, and via our website or


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