Thank vegans it's Thanksgiving, US turkeys say

Victor is a 45-pound (20 kilogram) turkey who would be welcome at many a table this Thursday when Americans celebrate Thanksgiving.

But when Victor graces a dinner table, he comes as guest of honor with his feathers puffed up rather than as the main course with his innards stuffed, which is the way some 46 million turkeys are expected to end up this Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation.

Victor will never be one of them.

He is one of a growing number of turkeys who are living out their days at animal sanctuaries after being rescued from slaughterhouses and cages around the United States.

Some are saved by the US president in a tradition - pardoning the Thanksgiving Day turkey - that dates back to John F. Kennedy in the 1960s.

The turkey who will be pardoned by President Barack Obama this year will live out his days at the Virginia estate of America's founding president, George Washington.

Victor owes a debt of gratitude not to the US president but to the growing number of vegetarians and vegans in the country.

Victor was found four years ago on Thanksgiving day, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November, walking down a road in the Washington suburb of Germantown.

He was just several months old - turkeys who are destined for the dinner table usually end up in a deep-freeze when they are about four months old.

Luckily for him, he was found by a couple of vegans, who took him to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Maryland, where this year he celebrated his fourth birthday.

Last weekend, Victor joined the sanctuary's other turkeys, guinea fowl, Japanese silkies, bantam hens, peacocks, even pigs who might have ended up as honey roasted hams on Thanksgiving, for a dinner thrown for the animals by humans.

On the menu for the birds was corn, grapes, tofu, greens, apples. The pigs got pumpkins.

While Victor and his fellow fowl feasted on their food, some 800 humans sat at long tables under a warm autumn sun and dined on couscous, quinoa, beans, pumpkin soup, pasta and other vegan dishes they had brought along. Vegan food contains neither meat, dairy, eggs nor honey.

The first time Poplar Spring held its Thanksgiving dinner for the turkeys 12 years ago, 50 people showed up.

This year, more than 800 turned out, a fact that could be attributed to the rising popularity of a vegan and vegetarian diet in the United States.

"There's been a steadily increasing number of vegetarians and we have seen a big jump in the proportion of that population who are vegans," said John Cunningham, the consumer research manager at the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG).

According to VRG, around six to eight million US adults out of a total population of some 300 million are vegetarian, and around half of them are vegan.

The main reason people become vegetarian is "because they don't want to participate in the slaughter of animals," said Cunningham.

Dining with the likes of Victor and his fellow Poplar Spring residents has pushed some Americans towards vegetarianism, said Terry Cummings, co-founder and director of Poplar Spring.

"Coming here plants a seed in people's minds: they eat well, they meet the birds, and I think a lot of them are surprised at how much like a pet dog a turkey can be," she said.

"Our white domestic turkey, Opal, was following people, letting them pat her," Cummings said.

Americans who bond with turkeys can adopt one of the birds to save its life.

The turkey will go to live at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York, which ironically is not far from the town of Corning, which is the name of a popular type of US cookware.

Humane humans can also switch to a vegan alternative to turkey for Thanksgiving. Called Tofurky, it has been available since the mid-1990s.

While US turkey production has doubled since 1970 to meet greater consumer demand, Tofurky production has increased more than 600-fold since 1995, the year Seth Tibbott created the vegan alternative to turkey and sold 500 Tofurky roasts.

Last year, 340,000 Tofurkys were sold in the United States and 2010 sales figures were six percent higher in November than for the whole of 2009.

But turkeys shouldn't rest on their laurels - which, of course, are bay leaves, a popular seasoning added to turkeys while they are roasting.

Americans remain the biggest eaters of turkey in the world, consuming 7.7 kilograms (15 pounds) of the meat a year - the equivalent of a third of Victor.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments