Take the crazy easy recipe for my Sloppy Leo (a compassionate take on the original Sloppy Joe) stuff it into an avocado shell, top with sliced grape tomatoes and you have a fun-scooping, easy-eating delight. Sloppy Leo is the name sake of, well, me – a huge fan of the best tempeh ever. The taste and texture of the tempeh is splendidly paired with some of the best BBQ sauce you will ever taste. Paired with rich avocado and cooling grape tomatos makes a sure winner for you and your dinner comrades.
Talk about comfort food. This crazy easy recipe is crazy delicous and is really not that sloppy after all. A compassionate take on the original Sloppy Joe, Sloppy Leo is the name sake of, well, me – a huge fan of the best tempeh ever. The taste and texture of the tempeh is splendidly paired with some of the best BBQ sauce you will ever taste. Locally produced, all plant-based and scrumscios…could you possibly ask for more?
For many of us we think of turkey. Turkey as in “A large mainly domesticated game bird native to North America, having a bald head and (in the male) red wattles. It is prized as food, especially on festive occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas (Oxford Dictionary)”. More simply put “…a large American bird that is related to the chicken that is hunted or raised by people for its meat”. We have collectively come to think of turkey as the meat of a bird used as food.
What has happened to thinking of turkey as a beautiful (or not so beautiful, depending on your opinion) bird that roams free and has a will to live his or her own life?
Wild turkeys forage on the ground in flocks, occasionally mounting shrubs or low trees for fruits. They scratch the forest floor for acorns and nuts in the fall. They line their nests with leaves and grasses. Turkeys make gobbling calls. They utter clucking calls “cluk, cluk, cut, putt.” Wild turkeys have been known to fly up to 55 miles per hour for short distances. In short – turkeys are sentient beings who have habits and desires of their own.
Unfortunately 300 million domestic turkeys are killed each year for their flesh, with approximately 45 million of them being killed for Thanksgiving dinner alone. Unlike their wild cousins, domesticated turkeys cannot fly. Not just because they are so highly confined that they cannot spread their wings, but because their genes have been so heavily manipulated that the rate of growth of their bones and organs cannot keep up with the rate of growth of their flesh (for which they area raised), resulting in an inability to walk, let alone fly.
As an ethical vegan, what perplexes me is that during the very same Thanksgiving meal in which 45 million turkeys are eaten, millions of people are gathered around dining room tables sharing that for which they are grateful, yet not acknowledging that these turkeys have lost their lives so they (the people) can celebrate their thankfulness. If it was not so tragic for the turkeys it would be entertaining.
The tradition of Thanksgiving eludes me because my experience has been that most people do not know what this Holiday is really about other than a wonderful time to be with family and friends that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to see. There is however, great emphasis on the food that is eaten because it is “traditional” and it is thought that this is what the Pilgrims and Indians ate on that day back in 1621. But…if one scours the resources on the origins of Thanksgiving, one will find that what we are “traditionally” eating today was not necessarily on the “menu” in 1621. What is said to have been on “their” table was whatever they had harvested that particular year at that particular time. No pumpkin pie, no sugar-laden desserts, and much more than turkey and stuffing.
The origins of Thanksgiving seem to elude many as the history is a bit complicated and unclear. Religion, harvest, fasting, feasting, Pilgrims, Indians, Plymouth Rock, New England; John Hancock, Continental Congress, and more are all mentioned when one researches the origins of this Holiday. I do not claim to be expert on this issue, quite the contrary. I am unclear about the origins of the day itself and the menu. I have seen it documented that Betty Crocker actually created the modern day Thanksgiving Dinner. So what is one to really make of this Holiday and its meal?
The reason I mention these things is because I find it disturbing that this Holiday has such ambiguous origins and that the majority of the people who celebrate this Holiday rarely ever acknowledge these origins, YET, they are deeply committed to eating so many foods that involve so much animal suffering.
If we are going to ultimately overshadow the (ambiguous) roots of a Holiday and adhere to a menu that seems to be somewhat randomly selected, need we involve so much animal suffering?
In a time when many are priding the human race as evolving spiritually and consciously, must we continue to clench to this tradition? There comes a time when tradition, ambiguous or unequivocal, cannot justify certain practices. Raising 45 million turkeys, who have interests and desires of their own, simply to kill them so that their flesh can be a part of our celebration meal is one tradition whose time ought to expire.
May one day the splendor of the turkey again be seen in her eyes as she scratches the forest floor for acorns and nuts in the fall; as she lines her nest with leaves and grasses; and as she makes her gobbling calls “cluk, cluk, cut, putt…cluk, cluk, cut, putt…cluk, cluk, cut, putt”.
I am convinced we can do better. Are you? Please share how you are leaving animals off your Thanksgiving plate.
I recently finished reading Animal Liberation and Atheism, written by Kim Socha, a local English Professor and author in the Twin Cities. Part of what captivated me was that I felt like Socha had been wandering the halls of my brain for years and extracted thoughts for which I had not yet formed words.
Socha’s premise is based on the notion that non-human (and human) animals will never be liberated as long as religion (dogmatic by design) exists. Her reasoning is that because religions are hierarchal, any being or species that is below a God, a god or a goddess must always answer to that Supreme Being and is never fully capable of ultimately making their own choice or decisions since this Supreme Being is THE guiding post for all ethical matters. Because this hierarchy exists, Socha argues, we are always striving to do what is right, not because it is right for all involved, but because doing what is right is what will assure us proper positioning in the afterlife (whether in spirit form or through reincarnation).
As I let this notion wash over me, I’ve come to realize the complexity of a question that has been begging to be answered for years. The question, which I am still refining, has to do with the (most common) reasons why humans treat animals with regard (if and when they do).
There are two “areas” of “doing what is right” for the “wrong” reasons that I will address. (While reading this article please keep in mind my liberal use of the terms “right” and “wrong.” Although I usually stray from using these judgments, I find them effective tools for this article.)
The first “area” is our reason for saving threatened species of animals.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 41% of amphibians, 25% of mammals and 13% of birds are threatened, i.e., endangered. (Sadly government and special interests repeatedly threaten to remove them from protection, often so we can resume hunting them.) The reasons for saving threatened species are almost always cited as “…future generations depend on them…” or “I want them to be around for my grandchildren.” Rarely do I hear the notion of saving the species for the sake of the species or for the sake of the individuals within that species (not even from the organizations that are doing amazing conservation work).
On the surface these actions can appear to be altruistic. However, I am not convinced they are because if something was not at stake for ourselves (by the loss of these species), by and large, we would not be taking actions to protect them.
Some people believe that all that matters is that the action is being taken and that the reason for taking the action does not matter. While what may be the most important thing is indeed the action, I tend to look at the larger picture.
What long-lasting implications are there of only taking actions that ultimately benefit ourselves, even if others also benefit? What kind of a world are we creating for ALL, not just humans, when this is our guiding post to taking “right action”? I do not have the answer. But, my guess is that it is not a very good one because I find this to be one of the most selfish reasons for taking action, and selfish actions are often met with negative and unintended consequences.
The second “area” regards the notion of reincarnation.
There are two aspects of this that I find to be disturbingly anthropocentric. The first (which touches upon Socha’s observation of the hierarchy imbedded in religion and many other forms of faith and spirituality) is the idea that if we do not reach enlightenment in this lifetime, we may return in another lifetime as a life form that is lower than our current selves, an animal. If we do reach enlightenment, then we are propelled to the next stage, heavenly beings. So we see how deeply rooted in this belief is the superiority of humans to all life forms other than spirit or God. Thus, Socha’s claim that humans and non-humans alike will never be liberated as long as we are living in accordance to these religious and spiritual doctrines.
The second aspect of reincarnation I find to be disturbing is the reason that people (aspire to) assure themselves good karma. On the surface, some religions and spiritualties appear to hold animals with great regard because their doctrines or precepts suggest treating them with what could generally be considered great respect. Upon deeper reflection, as Socha points out, this is really done to satisfy human needs and desires.
An example she uses (that “burst one of my bubbles”) is the reason that Janes are extremely mindful of not harming animals: not only are they predominantly vegetarian, they also cover their mouths with masks so they will not inhale insects and they sweep the ground before them so they will not step on bugs. The reason they do this is not because they value the lives of these individual creatures to this degree, but because they want to be sure they are treated well if they are to return to another life form such as one of these creatures. By putting into practice now, a kinder and gentler way of treating a “lesser” being, they are assuring a kinder and gentler treatment of themselves should they ever return as one of these “lower” life forms.
In my view, this is extremely human centric and more disturbing than that, it is very “me centric.” And it is not only Janes who do this – I only use this example because I had great hopes that at least a small number of humans following religious practices were able to act kindly to other species for reasons beyond themselves; for reasons of real altruism.
So this leaves me still seeking an answer to a question I am still refining: when will humans, as a species, take right action for the sake of others and not only for the sake of ourselves? Please share your thoughts and reflections on the blog.
I recently joined one of those Next Door Neighbor Social Media Sites and have been enjoying getting a sense of who lives in my ‘hood and what they are asking for and giving away. Lost Dog! Found Cat! While the former leaves me with a saddened heart the later gives me solace in knowing my neighbors are looking out for one another. Free Loveseat! Free Ostrich Fern! Wet Food for Starving Cat! Yeah, I love my neighbors!!! They are generous and warm-hearted…maybe even ecologically friendly. Contractor Needed! Ushers Needed! I see they are creative too.
Silly as it might seem, I feel more connected to those who dwell nearby even though I never see behind their four walls. My walks in the ‘hood are now infused with a bit more curiosity and eagerness to greet my neighbors as we pass one another on our daily walks.
And then IT comes in. Missing Deer Head! I am taken aback, wondering what this means. Is it the name of a play, maybe for the posting that beckoned Ushers Needed? The posting tells me otherwise. It says that someone had “…shot the buck of his life…” this spring and that the head with antlers was in his backyard but is now missing. He goes on to ask if we have “…seen or heard of a deer head that showed up somewhere?” And I wonder why is it that a deer’s head, without the deer’s body, could show up anywhere? To whom did this head really belong?
Before I know it my fingers are tapping out “Maybe the deer’s spirit came and took it back.” And I hit send. Unable to retract my reply, I start to wonder if this was inappropriate for this Neighborhood Social Media Platform. After all, there have not been any conversations other than solicited advice.
I begin to imagine what the “owner” of this Missing Head might reply. Would he reply at all? Would he find humor in it? Would he be outraged, believing I overstepped my boundary? And then I began to question our perceptions of boundaries and what conversations seem to get shut out in our society.
It is a commonly held, and generally accepted, belief in our society that as long as we are licensed to do so, we can kill. We can then share the information about the kill wherever, whenever, and however we want. For me, as a person who equally values all species, I was shocked to see such a blatant display of the joy that killing this animal gave this man. I don’t know his reason for the hunt but I can say with confidence, that as a city dweller (in particular), he did not need to take this life for his survival. And so why do we find this behavior to be acceptable?
And why does the voice that questions hunting often get criticized as soft-hearted or intrusive? As for the soft heart, why do we fear that? This reminds me of how the qualities we consider to be feminine are shrugged off as emotional and unfitting for so many of our cultural activities. I believe that if we fully expressed the softness in our hearts, our world, let alone society, would be a more loving and accepting place. As for being intrusive, I believe it is considered as such because hunting (a very clean word for killing when it is not needed for our survival) is considered to be a personal choice. And in some ways it is. But so is raping, or abusing a child. So when do we call it fair to step in and voice what we see as an injustice?
When one views a socially acceptable practice as an injustice, and openly expresses that perspective to the “perpetrator,” they are often considered to be speaking out of line; to be dabbling in someone else’s business. But when does someone else’s business become our business? If we always kept our unpopular beliefs to ourselves, slavery, as it once was practiced, would still exist. Women would not be showing up to the voting booths, and girls in China would still have their feet bound.
We look back on the pioneers who led those conversations and applaud them. This applause seems to be absent when the pioneers of (hopefully impending) paradigm shifts are in the process of introducing new conversations that challenge current, acceptable practices that they find to be unjust.
Entering new conversations can be scary and awkward. They can be confronting and very uncomfortable. But experiencing these sensations does not justify not entering these conversations. After all, the deer whose head is missing and all the other victims of unjust, yet acceptable, practices experience sensations that are much graver than anything we will experience when we are in challenging conversations and pioneering new paradigms.
As all of this is running through my head, I head back to my computer and see a new posting on the Next Door Neighbor Social Media site. It is not from the owner of the missing deer head. It is from an appreciative neighbor who thanked me for my post. I write back to him and let him know I appreciate his heart.