When people in North America think about ‘Thanksgiving celebration,’ they immediately think ‘turkey’. These two seem to be inexorably intertwined, as a result of one woman’s persistence – which turned out to be a tragic turn of events for these beautiful birds.

But, it doesn’t have to be like this.

Side Note: Have you heard the news? Snoop Dogg Gives Away More Than 1,000 Thanksgiving Turkeys to the needy in Inglewood, California. This story has been picked up and reported by the news agencies around the world (which I guess was smart publicity, not just charity), so I heard it on the local TV station in Warsaw, Poland. Apparently, there is no escaping the talk about Thanksgiving turkey even across the globe! As Thanksgiving is getting closer, there will be more and more news similar to that one. News that are supposed to be uplifting — but are truly depressing in many ways that are invisible to most people, except vegans.

Traditions can and should – no, they simply MUST be changed. Just as our society evolves, so should our traditions – to reflect our deepest values of compassion and justice, as well as our increased awareness of what it means to be truly human — and humane.

Hint: to determine whether something is humane think if you’d like it done to you. Or your dog.  If we look at it from that perspective – I think we could all agree that enslaving and killing another being, no matter how gently we do it, is NOT humane. Moreover, humans have also evolved past the point where our intellect outweighs our primal instincts to hunt and kill. 

So, back to Thanksgiving and turkey.

There is much discussion about what was on the table and what wasn’t on that first Thanksgiving. But ultimately, it really doesn’t matter. I don’t care what as on the table of the first feast, and neither should you, because we are not interested in the exact replica of the first Thanksgiving. We want to share traditions and rituals, so that we feel connected to something bigger and older than ourselves.

If we look at it from that perspective, it’s just as traditional not to have a dead turkey on the table, as it is to have dead turkey on the table.

Besides, people are not so much attached to the turkey itself, as to having a centerpiece on a table, a focus on the plate, and this can be accomplished in many different ways, including this one. In more compassionate ways, and more healthful ways too.

We shape our traditions out of our ideals. And as our ethics evolve, as we extend the circle of compassion to include other living beings besides humans, our traditions must evolve too.

Why not establish new tradition this Thanksgiving: to pardon the turkey you were going to put in the oven, and have a beautiful stuffed pumpkin as a stunning and compassionate (as well as healthful) centerpiece instead?

This is not a new idea — by the way.

The idea comes from the Presidential Pardon during the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation.

So What’s a Presidential Pardon?

National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation is a ceremony that takes place at the White House every year shortly before Thanksgiving. The President of the United States is presented with a live domestic turkey. Since 1989 during the first Thanksgiving of President George H. W. Bush, the president has granted the turkey a “presidential pardon” and thus spared the bird from being slaughtered.

Why not establish a new tradition this Thanksgiving: to pardon the turkey you were going to put in the oven — even if not literally, but just by just NOT buying the turkey and NOT having it as a centerpiece this year; and have a beautiful stuffed pumpkin as a stunning and compassionate (as well as healthful) centerpiece instead?


And then, after Thanksgiving, why not pardon all animals? Why not do it every day?

Why not spare the turkey – and choose foods that don’t require violence, torture, and killing?

Let’s throw away the old and outdated customs, limiting beliefs, and find a new way to give thanks, show appreciation, love and joy.

Not just for Thanksgiving, but for every day.

Not just pardon for the turkey.

Pardon for all the animals.

Every day.


PS. If you have tweens or teenagers or young adults at home, check out this book–The Kind Summer by yours truly, that talks about Thanksgiving traditions quite a bit.