If the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had its way, the symbol of Thanksgiving would not be a turkey but a nearly nude protester curled up in the fetal position.
PETA has protested eating meat at Thanksgiving for most of its nearly 40-year existence, but it has taken a new approach in the last five years or so to gain attention, said PETA campaign specialist Ashley Byrne.
As part of the animal rights group’s annual protests surrounding Thanksgiving, its activists have increasingly begun stripping off their clothes, climbing onto a large cutting board, and thrusting their rear-ends in the air next to faux turkey carcasses. PETA’s message is that it wants people to imagine themselves in the turkey’s position on the dinner table.
“Just like dogs and cats and humans, turkeys are sensitive, intelligent individuals who feel pain, love, fear, joy, and who don’t want to be killed,” Ms. Byrne said. “With all the amazing vegan products and recipes available today, it’s easy to enjoy a non-violent, plant-based holiday feast that no one had to die for and especially at Thanksgiving.”
Gathering with family and friends, watching football, and eating turkey are commonly associated with the coming Thanksgiving holiday, but PETA wants to eliminate the meat-eating portion of the feast celebrating the fall harvest.
Thus far in 2019, the nearly naked protesters have demonstrated in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Nashville, Tennessee. Previous years’ demonstrations have been held in Baltimore, and Pittsburgh.
Whether the mostly naked activists have prompted anyone to lose their appetite is a matter of some debate. The National Turkey Federation, the U.S. turkey industry’s main advocacy group, estimates 46 million turkeys will be eaten on Thanksgiving this year, and turkey consumption does not appear to have slowed.
Ms. Byrne said people celebrating Thanksgiving should extend kindness to turkeys “by leaving them off our plates” in the spirit of the holiday.
PETA has not limited its Thanksgiving activism to nude demonstrations. The group sent an activist in a turkey costume to stand outside the House impeachment hearings last week on Capitol Hill. The PETA activist held a sign reading, “Just this once … BE MORE LIKE TRUMP and pardon a turkey this Thanksgiving.”
Like his predecessors, President Trump has participated in the annual tradition of pardoning a turkey ahead of Thanksgiving. This year, he will choose between pardoning one turkey named “Bread”and another called “Butter,” with the formal pardon ceremony slated for Tuesday at the White House.
Elsewhere, PETA is running ads asking people not to eat turkeys. In Wichita, Kansas, PETA placed ads on seven buses beginning last week that feature a turkey next to the words, “We also feel pain, love, joy, and fear. Go vegan.” Similar ads will appear in Charleston, South Carolina; Greensboro, North Carolina; Allentown, Pennsylvania; and Cincinnati.
“When it comes to feeling pain and fear, loving their offspring, and valuing their own lives, turkeys are no different from human beings,” said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in a statement announcing the ads. “PETA’s ads encourage people to fight species-ism this Thanksgiving by opting for a delicious meal that keeps cruelty and exploitation off the Thanksgiving table.”
PETA also is using social media to guilt people into not eating turkey.
“How could anyone look into the eyes of this turkey and still eat them?” PETA tweeted Friday alongside a video of a turkey. “Turkeys are gentle animals who don’t deserve to be killed for #Thanksgiving.”
PETA’s activism is not just about telling people what not to eat, but also telling them what they should digest. Instead of eating a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal, PETA has directed people to Trader Joe’s to shop for an all-vegan Thanksgiving, complete with vegan alcohol.
A Trader Joe’s cashier in the District of Columbia said the store was unaware of PETA’s efforts and had no comment. A company spokeswoman did not respond to request for comment.
Ms. Byrne said vegan alternatives to many Thanksgiving options could be found at groceries nationwide, including Trader Joe’s and Walmart.
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