I Beg Your Pardon: Give Animals Something to be Thankful for This Thanksgiving

Every year millions of Americans watch the President perform his annual act of pardoning the White House turkey. We suffer through the turkey jokes, like Clinton's gem in 1997 ("We can all be grateful that there will be one less turkey in Washington") and Bush's clever pun in 2004 ("This is an election year and Biscuits had to earn his spot at the White House...you might say it was neck-and-neck"). As I watch these ceremonies that seem faker than presidential press conferences, I ask the same question: What's the point of sparing one turkey's life in front of the cameras only to eat his brother later that same week?

It's not enough to pardon one or two turkeys once a year. I've pardoned turkeys every day for the past 10 years. I also pardon cows, pigs, chicken, fish, and other animals whose flesh I do not depend on for survival.

In fact, I'll offer my personal guarantee that if you take my lead and pass on the meat this Thanksgiving Day you will live to tell about it. By sticking to a plant based diet this holiday season, not only would you lose that tryptophan induced sluggishness that keeps you planted to your couch all day, you would lower your cholesterol levels and blood pressure and reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease.

By granting turkeys a pardon this year, your act of kindness may improve your mental health as well. I feel better knowing I'm taking a stand against an industry that severs turkeys' beaks, toes, and snoods without painkillers. I might feel slightly less disgusted by the industry's cruel practices if I knew there were at least some laws governing them. Unfortunately, as the Humane Society of the United States points out, this is not the case.

"The federal Animal Welfare Act does not cover animals used for food, and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act is interpreted to exclude birds killed for human consumption. And most states' anti-cruelty statutes exempt standard agricultural practices, no matter how abusive."

So why do we keep coming back to turkey every fourth Thursday of November? Some people say eating turkey evokes the pastoral virtues of America's beloved Pilgrims. In that case, why stop with turkey?

If we're going along with this whole Pilgrim tradition thing, let's go all the way. We can start by banning gambling. Now I know this might make Thanksgiving Day football matches a little less exciting, but tough luck. Gambling is a sin before God. The Puritans wouldn't have it. Neither can we.

And no Thanksgiving weekend is complete without a trip to the cinema. But if we're taking this tradition thing seriously, I'm afraid we're going to have to do away with that, too. Drama, after all, was also banned by the Pilgrims.

Wait a second. No movies? This means we'll never know how Santa Clause 3 ends!?! Suddenly this tradition thing is starting to sound ridiculous.

Maybe this Thanksgiving we can start a new tradition: compassion.

Instead of supporting the slaughter of innocent animals, try a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving. It's a lot easier than you think. You can eat the famous side dishes that complement every Thanksgiving meal. Just cook them with non-dairy margarine. Or if you really want to spice up your Thanksgiving Day feast, add a Tofurky to the mix. Despite what your opinionated coworker who has never actually tried fake meat says, Tofurky does not taste like cardboard. Many of my meat-eating friends agree with me when I say it's very flavorful and delicious. There's also a new faux turkey product on the shelves this season. Garden Protein has introduced the Veggie Turkey Breast With Wild Rice and Cranberry Stuffing, a brand new, healthy alternative to meat. If you want to make your own animal-friendly meal, there are plenty of recipes all over the web. For Biscuit's sake, just try something new.

And the best part is that if we adopt faux turkey as the new food of Thanksgiving, we won't have to tolerate any more dull White House ceremonies. That's enough to make everybody thankful.