Freedom Line

Admittedly, PETA does not call for the elimination of the turkey from Thanksgiving celebrations, but merely from the dinner table.

Send this story to a friend
Enter recipient's e-mail:


Pass on the Tofurky, Please
PETA Calls for Pardoning of All Turkeys This Thanksgiving

By Erin Murphy

As with many aspects of American society, Thanksgiving dinner just wouldn’t be complete without a healthy helping of guilt. For most, the purported hypocrisy of celebrating our friendship with a people whose land and lives we allegedly stole will suffice. But in the spirit of Thanksgiving excess and abundance, PETA has cooked up another accusation to stir our consciousness: capital punishment of turkeys.

Inspired by the annual Thanksgiving tradition in which the President pardons two turkeys in the Rose Garden, PETA has called upon all Americans to pardon turkeys from their Thanksgiving meals this year. Among its campaign tools are billboards with the President’s face and a turkey, displaying the question, "If he can pardon one, won’t you?" and a "Pardon Me!" print ad in which turkeys plead for a stay of execution. The print ad details the "cruel and unusual" treatment turkeys experience on the farm prior to execution, along with the appeal, "We won’t have to walk the green mile if you make it a green menu."

The campaign is no less than what we have come to expect from the same group that demands PETCO stop selling pets, accuses Girl Scouts of torturing and murdering beavers, and is pushing for legislation to ban animal acts from circuses. Loyal supporters must check PETA’s boycott list daily to prevent the shame and humiliation of inadvertently supporting such alleged animal-haters as Procter & Gamble, Vogue and the March of Dimes.

If PETA’s pardon proposal appears a bit devoid of Thanksgiving custom, consider its campaign to replace Pamplona’s "running of the bulls" with a "humans-only race" (what the rest of us might just call "running"). Unlike turkeys and bulls, apparently tradition and culture are not endangered enough to warrant PETA’s preservation efforts.

Admittedly, PETA does not call for the elimination of the turkey from Thanksgiving celebrations, but merely from the dinner table. PETA offers a host of recipes for undoubtedly delectable dishes to replace the traditional Thanksgiving fare, including Tofurky, UnTurkey and Tofu Turkey, a helping of tofu prepared as a silhouette of a turkey. Its Web site features the Thanksgiving E-cards "Don’t Eat the Mascot" and "Happy Tofurky Day," along with a selection of children’s books teaching about compassion toward the turkey.

Despite PETA’s valiant attempts to market its pardoning campaign as "compassionate conservatism," the contemplated elimination of this two-hundred-year-old tradition won’t sit well at most Thanksgiving tables. For starters, many of us fear where such campaigns will lead. The cruel conditions under which chickens are forced to lay Easter eggs and the systematic execution of Christmas trees must surely be re-examined next. Others among us will freely admit that our compassion goes only so far, and the excesses of PETA fall outside that threshold. Or perhaps it is finally proof that even Americans have a limit to how much guilt we can sustain.

Unfortunately, I, like the majority of non-turkey-farming Americans, do not have it in my power to grant such a stay of execution this year. But as long as turkeys must suffer their inevitable fate, I will do my part to ensure it did not die in vain by making it the guest of honor at my Thanksgiving celebration. And though my complicity in the crime of its death will inevitably weigh heavy on my heart, at least I can be thankful that at my table, we still politely pass on the Tofurky.

Erin Murphy is a student at Georgetown University Law Center and an intern at the Center for Individual Freedom.

[Posted November 20, 2003]

Return to Current Events Index