Vegan for the animals: Happy turkey-free festive season

In a few months, I will have officially been vegan for half of my life. I have lived the entirety of that life in a rural area, where the concept of veganism still seems unfathomable to most people. For anyone who didn’t grow up in the country, let me just say that things are… different here. People, in general, tend to be less open-minded, and whatever progress is happening in the rest of the world always reaches us last. Hunting and fishing are still favorite pastimes, and a fair number of people still make their living by raising animals for food. 

When I first went vegan for the animals, I knew not a single other person who was, and it was hard not to feel utterly alone. It felt like the entire world was blind to the suffering of nonhuman animals, and the inherent value of their lives. I knew there were others out there who felt the way that I did, but my experience of them was limited to reading about them online. I finally did meet a few other people who were vegan for the animals too, but the thought that those of us who cared about animal rights were doomed to remain a tiny minority was an ever-present shadow hanging over my head. 

The first time I remember feeling like we might truly have a chance at changing the world for the better was when I attended an event, at an animal sanctuary, called Celebration For the Turkeys. This is an annual event that takes place around the holidays for many vegans as an alternative to the traditional holiday dinner. The idea is that, rather than being terrorized, slaughtered, and commodified, these beautiful creatures are appreciated and treated with respect and reverence. Vegan versions of holiday foods are set out on picnic tables and the sanctuary’s resident turkeys are allowed to help themselves, as the human guests look on. 

Despite having lived so long in a place where farming animals was common practice, I’d had very little opportunity to observe any of these animals, in a safe and comfortable setting. I was amazed at the difference I could see in each individual. Their unique personalities were obvious, even from a distance. I could look into their eyes and see the souls residing within. I knew, in that moment, that no matter how difficult and heartbreaking it might be, I was doing the right thing. These wonderful beings were worth fighting for, even if it often felt like I was fighting alone. 

What was even more amazing to me than the turkeys themselves, were the other humans in attendance. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who truly cared for animals that the rest of the world considered nothing more than products to be consumed. I looked around me and saw the emotions in the faces of my fellow spectators; some were smiling, some laughing, some had tears in their eyes. I knew, without a doubt, that everyone else there was feeling the same thing I was. They were looking at these turkeys, who could have so easily ended up as someone’s dinner, and reveling in the fact that would never happen to them. We were all experiencing the turkeys’ joy and contentment as if it were our own, and we were seeing that a world in which humans and other animals live in peace was possible.

I would recommend anyone, vegan or not, attend an event like this, if at all possible. It will, without a doubt, change your perspective on the world, humanity, and our relationship to nonhuman animals. For me, it was the first time in a very long time that the holidays truly felt like something to celebrate. 

If you’d like to participate in fun Christmas activities this year that are centered around helping animals there are many animal sanctuaries that are open over Christmas. Hopefield Animal Sanctuary in Essex have their annual Magical Christmas Experience, Tower Hill Stables have a Turkeys in Need awareness program and welcome people to sponsor a turkey for Christmas, and Dean Farm Trust in Kent have their Christmas Drop In. You could purchase items from a sanctuary wishlist, or order festive animal greeting cards from animal sanctuaries to help give them a helping hand over the holidays, or save an animal this Christmas by adopting an animal from a local shelter, or fostering a dog over the holidays. 

Check out these amazing animal sanctuaries to support in the UK too. However you decide to celebrate the festivities this year, we hope the animals in your lives have a happy festive season and a very merry Christmas.

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