There are lots of ways to help turkeys, whether you eat them or not. Millions of turkeys are eaten each year, mostly at Christmas. Welfare charity Viva! reports that sometimes up to 25,000 turkeys are kept in one large shed. Although not naturally aggressive, these beautiful creatures end up fighting, as they are so stressed. Compassion in World Farming wants turkeys kept in much smaller numbers with more space and light, and more ventilation. In nature, turkeys can run at high speeds and fly up to low branches at night, hopping up to find a safe place to sleep (they have many natural predators). Even the story of Bird Bird from Sesame Street is sad: often thought of as a big canary, he was in fact based on a turkey: his costume was made from thousands of dyed-yellow turkey feathers, likely slaughtered.
Turkeys are not related to chickens. Native to Latin America, these intelligent birds can remember other turkeys and people for up to a year. You can tell males and females apart by their poop (J-poops are male, females are spiral!) The snood (wattle) under the chin is pale if a turkey is ill, but goes bright red if liking a mate. Turkeys have good eyesight and hear well (though they have no external ears). But they have no teeth, so need two stomachs to digest food.
- If you eat turkey, choose certified organic free-range for better welfare (hock burns on factory-farmed turkeys are often removed, labels like Red Tractor just means it’s British, and RSPCA Assured is not as stringent as certified organic free-range.
- You don’t need to eat turkey for the amino acid tryptophan (you would have to eat mountains of it, to have any effect). The reason turkey ‘makes you sleepy’ is likely from eating a big dinner and alcohol, on Christmas day.
- All farm animals have legal rights. Report concerns to RSPCA (can be anonymous).
- Support turkey sanctuaries like Dean Farm Trust.
- Buy tees, hoodies and beanies from clothing brands that help animals. These companies use profits to help animal sanctuaries.
- If you are Muslim, One Arab Vegan has posts on how you can still be vegan, Ramadan & Islamic vegan lifestyles. Find recipes in the book Vegan Recipes from the Middle East.
Don’t give leftovers from these recipes to pets, some contain toxic foods to keep away from pets (soy, garlic, onion, salt, avocado, mushrooms). Never feed turkey bones to pets, can cause choking.
- Ultimate Christmas Tofurkey Roast (Full of Plants)
- Vegan Turkey Roast with Stuffing
- Vegan Christmas Dinner with Gravy
- Use plant-based gravy mixes. Steenbergs Organic Gravy Mix for Poultry and 9 Meals from Anarchy make good stocks.
- Tofurkey Deli Slices are sold in stores
- Make a Jackfruit ‘Turkey Sandwich’
Moving on from Turkey Twizzlers
Jamie Oliver’s campaign led to these snacks (up to 40 ingredients including pork fat) being banned for school dinners, although they have recently been reintroduced. The Children’s Food Campaign says the fact it took 15 years to reformulate them, shows ‘what a truly terrible product’ it was – and still recommends avoiding them.
Bernard Matthews began his business after hatching turkeys in his dining room, rearing them in the bedroom and having them slaughtered in the kitchens. Yet the multi-million business does not use profits to support free-range turkey farming (one undercover investigation found workers ‘playing football with live turkeys’ and there were issues with reporting bird flu). If you like fried turkey, buy an air-fryer (safer than chip pans) so with an air-fryer recipe book, to eat ‘fried food’ that isn’t!