Thanksgiving can be intimidating for new and existing vegans. Leave it to this guide to help you navigate a Vegan Thanksgiving like a pro! Now that’s something to be thankful for!
Table Of Contents
- Go Back To The Beginning: The Very First Thanksgiving
- What To Eat Now? Recipe Roundup to the Rescue!
- How to Help Friends & Family "Make the Connection"
- Share Truth Through Trivia: Presidential Turkey Pardons
- Remember the Individuals & Share Their Truth
- Stay Vegan During the Holiday With This Survival Guide!
Thanksgiving is a magical time when most Americans come together with family to gorge themselves to the point of a full-blown food-coma. Oh, and give thanks, be grateful, and that stuff too. Given that food is such a cornerstone of our social interactions and traditions, holidays—and Thanksgiving in particular—can be very intimidating for new and existing vegans. Fret not—this Vegan Thanksgiving Guide has your back!
Aside from the logistics of what to eat and how to deal with your loved ones, the ethical issues surrounding this “day of thanks” are quite troubling: from the very first Thanksgiving’s foundation upon the slaughter of an indigenous people, to the annual tradition revolving around the mass slaughter of turkeys.
How is a vegan to handle a holiday so loaded with (potential) landmines? Just leave it to this guide to help you navigate Thanksgiving like a pro—from “surviving” your non-vegan family, to dropping “fun fact” historical truth bombs at the table, to even educating effectively about the ethics of exploitation. Now that’s something to be thankful for! tweet this
Go Back To The Beginning: The Very First Thanksgiving
Before we dig into what to eat for Thanksgiving, let’s take a look at where (and how) this all started. Impress your family with your historical prowess while secretly busting out an educational activism sneak-attack with the true history of this twisted holiday in The Truth About Thanksgiving.
I’m not here to spoil your holiday, nor invalidate your family traditions. I simply want to take a look at both the origins of Thanksgiving and the current practices involved with its observance. Most Americans grow up with the romantic recitation of the first Thanksgiving, with the Pilgrims and “Indians” (Indigenous peoples) coming together for a peaceful feast.
In reality, this holiday has a human cost at its foundation—for all its warm and fuzzy feelings, Thanksgiving is essentially the celebration of genocide with genocide.
The Truth About Thanksgiving: Celebrating Genocide With Genocide
What is the true story of thanksgiving? Let’s take a look behind the wholesome image, at the actual historical basis of this holiday and our current practices of celebration.
What To Eat Now? Recipe Roundup to the Rescue!
Now that you know how this whole Thanksgiving thing started, you may not feel so celebratory. But who’s to say you don’t start your own tradition altogether? Luckily, going vegan doesn’t mean giving up your favorite holiday-tied tastes.
Given how un-gifted I am when it comes to the kitchen, I teamed up with some meal-mastering vegans to bring you the “how to” of an epically ethical Thanksgiving dinner.
Vegan Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup
Need some inspiration for vegan thanksgiving recipes? Not sure how to give thanks turkey-free? If you’re newly vegan or just looking for new vegan ideas, this recipe collaboration has everything you need to have an Epically Ethical Thanksgiving Dinner.
How to Help Friends & Family “Make the Connection”
If you’re anything like me, one of the hardest parts of this holiday is knowing what the turkeys we break, breed, confine and kill experience. This awareness can make it incredibly challenging to be around non-vegan friends and family, much less try to talk to them about the issue.
This Draw My Life video offers a way to introduce loved ones to what turkeys experience—with all of the weight of their suffering, but without a single graphic image. Consisting entirely of marker-board-drawings and a poetic voice-over, this video follows the abbreviated five-month lifespan of a single turkey. As she shares her story, we see it all through her eyes.
5 Months To Live | Draw My Life
I have five months to live. So I’ll try to be quick. I’ll share my journey with you until the end. Please watch. Please listen. Please hear me. I’m not the only one.
Share Truth Through Trivia: Presidential Turkey Pardons
Nothing fits a family gathering quit like sharing anecdotal trivia about bizarre governmental traditions! Impress your family with your know-how about the strange history of turkey pardons (and lay down some turkey truth while you’re at it!)
Every year, the President of the United States pardons two turkeys from being slaughtered for Thanksgiving. But what most people don’t realize about this supposedly lighthearted tradition is that the majority of pardoned turkeys die within a year of their pardon.
Hey President! Here’s How You REALLY Pardon A Turkey
Every year, the President of the United States pardons two turkeys from being slaughtered for Thanksgiving. This is more a delay in execution than a full pardon. These “lucky” turkeys are still likely to be dead within a year.
Remember the Individuals & Share Their Truth
The most powerfully effective way to make the connection between the body on our plate and the living, feeling being they once were is to look them directly in the eye. I streamed this footage live from a turkey slaughterhouse near me here in Iowa just before Thanksgiving. Even this small slaughterhouse alone kills over 20,000 turkeys a day.
I stayed with them for hours. In the Iowa cold. They were terrified. Covered in feces and sores. Wheezing from respiratory infections and the weight of their overgrown bodies. Some already dying.
Within hours of this footage, they had all been killed. Dragged through an electrified water tank before having their throats slit open. All for families to gather over their corpses and “give thanks.”
But this is nothing to be thankful for.
LIVE At An Iowa Turkey Slaughterhouse: Thanksgiving Truth
These are the faces of your Thanksgiving “dinner.” They are sentient, terrified beings, crammed together, covered in their own feces. This is nothing to be thankful for. Streamed live from a turkey slaughterhouse in Iowa.
Stay Vegan During the Holiday With This Survival Guide!
Now that we’ve covered the “hows” and “whys” of a vegan Thanksgiving—and the disturbing origins of the holiday itself—I’ll leave you with something perhaps even more disturbing: your family!
Holidays can be a challenging time, regardless of your dietary inclination. When you’re vegan in a family of non-vegans and/or surrounded by non-vegan friends, things get even less merry. But fear not because today I’m going to share my top tips for staying vegan during the holidays.
While you always have the option of not eating with your family and friends for the holidays, if you want to be with loved ones who still eat…well, loved ones, hopefully these tips can help. tweet this
How To Stay Vegan During the Holidays With Non-Vegans
Being around family during the holidays can be challenging, regardless of your dietary inclination. For vegans with non-vegan family and friends, these social events can be made all the more challenging.
I hope this holiday guide has helped you get grateful for your “vegan vision,” while finding tools for handling the challenges that come with such awareness. While going vegan can be daunting when thinking of holidays and social gatherings, it also opens up opportunities for creativity and educating others.
I’d love to hear what you thought of this guide! Did you know the history of Thanksgiving? If you’re vegan, what (if anything) do you do for Thanksgiving? If you’re not vegan, does the worry of how to handle such holidays stop you from making the switch? Let me know in the comments!
Please share this guide around to help other vegans and vegans-to-be!
— Emily Moran Barwick
Hi Emily, appreciate you very much. Have you done anything where you address the question of Native Americans or any indigenous people who are particularly resentful of veganism being pushed on them? I got this response on facebook — it’s not the first time I’ve seen this type of reaction: “You enjoy your judgemental vegan journey on a real note. I honestly thought you were a vibe higher person then that. I do eat meat i enjoy the taste of meat i also know how my body reacts when i am on a strictly vegan diet. I don’t drink milk or eat milk products but i will eat chicken and eggs. It is a completely personal choice in what you choose to put in your body but unfortunately i see a lot of “Well im vegan now so i am so much better then you” type of mind set. This is truly sad. I need the protein from meat my body doesn’t process veggies that well even though i wish it would i love greens and beans of that sort. But i also love deer meat and know that i am doing a service to the local environment by helping control over population. Or would you rather they let the deers number become so massive they just shoot and waste the animal? I come from a native American family and well my ancestors hunted and killed with the respect of what the world provides to us and how the spirits provided to us. I see it no differently. But i will tell you this where i was accepting of your choice of being vegan you are judgemental and hostile of my personal choice….. Which say a lot of your character. Good luck on your journey my dear may everything turn out the way you wish it to be and realise you can never throw the first stone with uncleaned hands. Pushing your new found ideals of other is only going to make them shut you out and your voice fall on deaf ears.”
I don’t know, should us vegans respect this particular culture’s “right” to kill and eat animals? Thanks in advance.