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Don't Eat the Turkey!

It was a beautiful day in Washington in early September of 1975. I was still flush with excitement from having attended my first World Vegetarian Congress in Orono, Maine. That’s where I decided to devote the rest of my life to ending the use of animals for food. That’s  also where I met Nellie “Saiom” Shriver, who was to become my mentor in vegetarian activism.

The phone rang. It was Nellie calling from Akron, Ohio. She informed me that the owner of Siddhartha, a vegetarian restaurant on New York Avenue, near the White House, was desperately seeking someone to help arrange a public vegan Thanksgiving dinner in his restaurant.

I jumped at the opportunity. This would be my very first act of vegan advocacy. I organized, and I publicized. I staged a comedy act with my 9-year-old daughter, and I recruited a vegan runner from Philadelphia to win the local Turkey Trot foot race (refusing a turkey carcass as his prize).

That first public vegan Thanksgiving dinner back in 1975 gave birth to a new tradition and hundreds more similar events through the years. And, where did the restaurant owner get the idea? Apparently, some woman called from Akron, Ohio and told him that I was desperately seeking a restaurant to hold a vegan Thanksgiving dinner. That’s how Nellie got things done.

My organization, the Farm Animal Rights Movement, or FARM for short, has sought to promote the turkey-free Thanksgiving tradition ever since, mostly because the national observance is so tethered to the carcass of a dead animal. Our Gentle Thanksgiving website lists all the reasons for shunning turkey carcasses on Thanksgiving, offers a good variety of appropriate plant-based recipes, provides guidance for celebrating with a turkey-addicted family, and encourages viewers to arrange their own public Thanksgiving dinners in partnership with their favorite vegan-friendly restaurant.

Several years ago, FARM expanded the scope of our observance and the associated website to other popular holidays following Thanksgiving. Our Compassionate Holidays website now also covers Christmas and Hanukkah (Dec 22-30), with plant-based recipes suited to each observance.

Every year, we write letters noting the absurdity of killing an innocent animal to celebrate our own life, happiness, and good fortune to the editors of hundreds of America’s newspapers. In some years, we’ve even put up public billboards.

When the National Turkey Federation began staging their annual presidential turkey “pardons” in the late 1980s, we seized on the occasion to picket the White House ceremony. This became much more relevant in November of 2017, in the face of widespread rumors that President Trump was considering a pardon for recently indicted campaign chairs Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. We arranged a two-day White House vigil with giant posters picturing a wild turkey and the admonition “Pardon Only the Innocents, Mr. President.” Our mobile billboards with the same message circled downtown Washington.

In 1995, vegan Thanksgiving dinners received a welcome boost from the commercial appearance of Tofurky, a ready-to-eat animal-free roast created by an ingenious entrepreneur named Seth Tibbott. This meant that any vegan advocate, with no culinary skills, could now show up at their family dinner and share their own cruelty-free roast. Hopefully, this could replace those excruciating, depressing discussions about the absurdity of killing an innocent animal to celebrate our own life, happiness, and good fortune.  Because of the item’s popularity, other commercial producers soon followed suit, including Field Roast, Gardein, Herbivorous Butcher, and Trader Joe’s.

So, when you sit down to your own vegan Thanksgiving dinner this year, you may wish to share the story of how this valiant ethical tradition began in 1975 with an idea and two well-placed phone calls by a young vegan advocate from Akron, Ohio.

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35 thoughts on “The Vegan Blog”

  1. We have learned nothing, but I see a glimmer of hope in this next generation. There’s more love and willingness to care… Maybe I’m dreaming; naive; or surrounded by ‘nice’ young people, but it’s heartening. Thank you for everything you have done to keep those souls safe and loved 💚💚💚💚✌️💕
    Alison,
    Co, Antrim
    N. Ireland

  2. Amazing post. Some people are shocked at the comparison between the Holocaust and what humans do to animals, but this is just speciesism. They feel that comparing human and animal suffering somehow discredits or diminishes human suffering, because they believe animals are lower than humans. Thank you Alex Herscaft for making this important point and hopefully the no vegan majority will see the truth soon. Peace and Love
    Emily

  3. Thank you. I often reference the holocaust in my animal activism and now here are your world changing words to back me up. Thank you thank you. Blessings.

  4. Dear Alex,

    I am moved and humbled by your experience as a young child and the journey it has taken you on. I am finding it hard to put in to words my gratitude that you have been able to find a positive trajectory for the suffering, pain and loss of life among your loved ones, not to mention countless others.

    I am only months in to living a more compassionate life. Vegan eating has been an easy conversion for me and my only regret is having not done it sooner. I have often been saddened by peoples’ lack of empathy towards fellow humans and found it hard as a child to understand racism. Little did I know I was implicitly being taught that oppression (in its’ many forms) was ok. I guess it has never sat well with me, but until only recently the connection between eating animals, animal cruelty and our oppression of people, has eluded me.

    Thank you for giving voice to such a big topic and sharing your experience. I look forward to reading more from you.

    Sincerely, Cyntra

  5. I was never in a camp. But I recognized oppression, and resolved to stop eating meat many years ago. Interestingly enough my own mother tried to guilt me about my decision. And she was raised on a farm.
    So thank you. I firmly believe that you cannot say you love animals and continue to eat meat…it’s more appropriate to say you love certain animals and hate the rest.
    And if you eat meat, you are harming the climate. That’s a proven fact. So thank you sir for your convictions. They are entirely correct.

  6. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I have been a vegetarian since I was a child and a vegan for ten years.
    It is so refreshing to read that others see how this evil, everyday like slaughter, slavery and torture is acceptable if someone else does it for you

  7. Thank you very much for this website, for this clear message.
    I am from Slovakia, and I woul like to make translations of your blog posts, so people, who do not speak English, can read your important thoughts, if it is ok with you.
    I never heard thoughts about our beloved animal toys in our childhood opposing the teaching, that animals are food. I is very strong image of our internal incoherency.
    Thank you. I is honor to read your kind words!

  8. It’s awesome to become acquainted with a four-decade Vegan. I will keenly anticipate your periodic sharing of wisdom and advice

  9. Thank you. Sir for your incredible insight…
    World must start to understand that
    Savagery is. Savagery… no matter the species 🙏

  10. This Text was verry emotional and show the same Violence to animals in high level how the Violence to jewish people before many years ago. Changes was only the Spezies,the cruelty ist the same and so unnessesary!!! Love all beeings is our learning Prozess! I fight for every Animal!💪💪💪✌️I’m a vegan.❣️

  11. Thank you very, very much for calling on your family’s tragic experience, and that suffered by so many others, to advocate for fairness and compassion for all sentient beings. When will the world learn? “Peace on Earth, goodwill towards ALL.”

  12. This was the first time I heard of you. I’m already vegan , 3 years only unfortunately.
    I wish you can reach more and more people , your words are so powerful. I wish you health and happiness and that many people will hear you out

  13. Alex, I’m so grateful that you are still so active in fighting for the animals! Keep it up as there is still too much work to do. We are fighting against our own government which subsidizes the animal industry!

  14. What an excellent piece of writing to defend animal farming industry 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 I’ve just shared it in Facebook

  15. Dear Alex, dear, dear man! I have for many years referred to the killing of these precious beings we share our Earth with as another holocaust! It has always saddened & sickened me. I am forever grateful for the work you do to try and bring awareness, awakening to the human species about what is REALLY going on!!! There are many times I cannot even leave my home for fear of what I might see! I pray and oh I do so hope one day this horrifically heinous treatment of these beloved beings, the innocents indeed will end! …. Thank you!

  16. Thank you for your kind comments.
    Additional information and lessons from the Holocaust about our oppression of animals are available on our website at https://never-again.org.
    The video of a speech I delivered before 2,000 vegan activists in England on August 31st may be viewed on the FARM Facebook page or YouTube channel.

  17. Thank you for the content of this piece, nicely written with lots of great historical information. (I wanted to re post it but I’m an aesthete and cant bring myself to post the cartoon pig logo)

  18. Greetings! This is my 1st comment here so I just
    wanted to give a quick shout out and say I really enjoy reading through your articles.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same subjects?
    Thanks!

    1. Thank you for your kind comments. I am not aware of anything comparable. That’s why I was motivated to start this blog.

  19. Good question. Much of what I write about is material that I have given a lot of thought to or actually written about. Beyond that, when a thought strikes me, I put it down, name the topic, and file it. So, a lot of my writing is more a matter of rescuing these files, organizing the content in some meaningful fashion, and filling in the gaps, rather than generating new ideas.

    1. I hope to eventually, once the blog has become more established and assuming that the author is someone whose expertise and opinion I respect.

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