In the United States, Thanksgiving is a time when families and friends come together to reaffirm their love and appreciation for one another through the age-old custom of sharing food. As mentioned earlier, Americans will eat more than 50 million turkey corpses on this day.
Why do Americans think it necessary to slaughter so many innocent animals to show their love for each other? It is a sad commentary on modern society that we have so much to be thankful for, and yet we carve up innocent animals on major holidays to express that sentiment. And at what expense? Americans are getting fatter and sicker year after year. The three top causes of death—heart disease, cancer and diabetes—are all food related. Eating a greasy, fat-laden dead bird is not going to help matters. But millions do it anyway, in the name of tradition.
The origins of the Thanksgiving celebration are not as blessed as most people think. Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American holiday, so much so that it is not just a holiday, but really is one of our holy days, almost universally celebrated by Americans. Ironically, in truth, families get together to celebrate one genocide (against Native Americans) by committing another (against turkeys). How can people celebrate in good faith and conscience?
On Thanksgiving Day, Americans give thanks for being the invader, the exploiter, the greedy, the colonizer, the thief, indeed the genocidaire. As Mark Twain points out in his War Prayer:
Wishing and being thankful for one’s own success and victory is, at the very same time, wishing and being thankful for another’s defeat and destruction.
Do Americans really want to make these kinds of wishes and give these kinds of thanks?
I do not wish to belabor the disturbing history that Thanksgiving represents, mainly because most people reading this book will probably already be vegetarian and much more conscious in their eating habits. On Thanksgiving, however, I urge one and all to be consistent with the true spirit of the holiday by sharing pure food with love and respect for all of God’s creation. Do not conform to the bogus traditions perpetrated by the masses, but rather stand strong on principle, and make this day a day where you honor God and all creation for what it truly is—your larger spiritual family.
I believe that food in its purest form can speak all languages. It has the power to unite and heal and, more importantly, to create real peace and prosperity in the world. I believe that such food, given in a spirit of love, is the solution to all problems simply because it is central to every cultural gathering, every spiritual holiday, every ritual, every battle, and every celebration—and of course, because without food there is no meaning or future.
Thanksgiving, therefore, should be a day that highlights the importance of food in our lives and how critical it is to our physical, mental and spiritual health. By eating flesh we in effect defile this holiday and lose touch with the very essence of life. By taking the life of another, we offend God’s creation and abuse the blessings human life affords us. Instead of eating a turkey, we should invite a turkey to dinner and feed it as we would any other animate being that came asking for a meal.
The Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM) has this to say:
Abusing and killing an innocent bird betrays the life-affirming spirit of giving thanks for our life, health, and happiness. The nearly 300 million turkeys killed each year in the U.S. spend their entire lives crammed in large sheds with little room to move. Artificially inseminated and selectively bred to gain enormous amounts of weight, they suffer heart attacks, broken limbs, lameness, and death from their genetically-induced accelerated growth rate. Most of these same conditions apply to “free range” turkeys.
Let the madness and hypocrisy stop once and for all.
Swami Prabhupada, the founder of Food for Life, believed that human wars are the direct result of slaughtering innocent animals. For example, he wrote in a Shrimad Bhagavatam commentary to 4.26.5:
In this age of Kali the propensity for mercy is almost nil. Consequently there is always fighting and wars between men and nations. Men do not understand that because they unrestrictedly kill so many animals, they also must be slaughtered like animals in big wars. This is very much evident in the Western countries. In the West, slaughterhouses are maintained without restriction, and therefore every fifth or tenth year there is a big war in which countless people are slaughtered even more cruelly than the animals.
In his public lectures, however, Swami Prabhupada expressed himself more emotionally, as in this lecture in Los Angeles in 1973:
The injunction is “Thou shalt not kill,” but he will kill and kill and kill and kill, and still, he won’t be satisfied. Just see. The Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill,” and they are simply engaged in killing business, and still they want to be happy. . . . Therefore Krishna says, “Yes, you be killed by occasional world war. You must be killed. You have created this situation. You must be killed. You may be American or Englishman or German or this or that. You may be very proud of your nationality. But you must be killed.” This is the position, the will of the Lord: “You have killed so many animals. Now wholesale killing, one bomb. One atom bomb. Be killed.”
On days like Thanksgiving this wholesale human karma is elevated to astronomical proportions, thus paving the way for more suffering. There may not be much one person can do to change the collective karma of the American public, but if you choose to reject these bogus killing traditions, you can at least feel satisfied that you did not contribute to the chaos that is created day after day, and you will be one step closer to perfecting your human life and realizing your true nature.
SOURCE: The Yoga of Eating, by Paul Turner (Soon to be published)