My entire life I have loved saving animals. As a young girl, I would care for injured squirrels, or help a baby bird back into the nest. One time, I even rescued five mud-soaked mice from a flooded creek in our rural neighborhood. I could not fathom any creature ever being in pain.
So, it was likely no surprise to my parents when I announced that I planned to go vegetarian at the age of 18. It has been an easy lifestyle for me these last three or so decades. It also makes me feel good that I can have a small influence on how we as a society treat animals.
In recent years, I took my dietary lifestyle to the next step and chose to go vegan. By now, you may have heard the word. If it is still unclear, the term refers to anything that is free of animal products: No meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, or honey.
I was moved to make the transition from vegetarian to vegan after getting the opportunity to moderate several animal advocacy events in Los Angeles. Those moments allowed me to meet and interview doctors, scientists, activists, authors, and celebrities. I also found myself spending more and more time at area animal sanctuaries in Southern California, including a place called Farm Sanctuary.
During a Thanksgiving visit to Farm Sanctuary, I was invited to sit in a small fenced-in area where several rescued turkeys were mulling about. I sat down on the ground once inside the enclosure and within minutes, one of the sweet turkeys, a male, made his way over to meet me. Before I knew it, he was in my lap and curled up. As I spoke with my friend, I realized the turkey had fallen asleep in my lap, and was literally purring like a cat. I couldn’t believe it. My heart was full!
I stayed as still as possible so I wouldn’t wake him up. As I held him, I couldn’t help but notice small things about him, like how thick his feathers were and how soft his head was. It was then that I kissed him gently while whispering “thank you.” Later that night, my heart turned from full to broken as I thought of his friends and the over 45 million other turkeys who are needlessly slaughtered every Thanksgiving, for the sole purpose of decorating the middle of our dining room tables.
Now, every year during the holidays, I see a turkey on a table in a totally different way. It reminds me immediately of that special moment when I connected with my sweet turkey. That day, I looked into his eyes. He saw me. I saw him. I know he fell asleep in my lap because he felt safe. He felt loved. He trusted me.
If you have ever loved a creature, any creature…A dog, a cat, cow, hamster, lizard, or parrot… My hope is that you will one day consider an alternative to meat, even if just for a day. Encourage others to choose a meat-free meal once in a while.
I can tell you from personal experience that you will feel better physically, and I’m 100 percent sure that your heart and soul will feel better for making the cruelty-free, kinder choice. And when that happens, another creature like my feathered friend may have a similar chance to curl up somewhere, feel safe, and sleep in much-deserved peace.
If you would like to make a difference, consider sponsoring a rescued turkey here.