5 Things to Read That May Persuade You To Re-think that Turkey or Holiday Roast

by Treehouse Editors

Casey Jordan Mills

Twenty-two million turkeys are eaten each Christmas. Nationally, turkey average $1.39/per pound. Each year, factory-farmed birds are being produced larger and larger to meet our needs, which means the prices will go up, too. A Tofurkey—a soy, meat-free, turkey-wannabe—rings in at the register at a low 8.99. Talk about savings. Many authors have come forward, promoting animal rights and vegetarianism—and not in the annoying way that celebrities do on glossy PETA leaflets.

  1. J.M. Coetzee has written several novels focused on the questions of animal rights, human rights, and a complex comparison of the two. The South African novelist is a Booker Prize winner, Nobel Prize winner, essayist, linguist, and vegetarian. In particular, his anthology The Lives of Animals tackles issues of animal rights with force. Within the larger collection of reflections and essays, Coetzee contributes a novella about Elizabeth Costello (Coetzee’s alter ego) visiting Appleton College and giving a series of lectures on animal cruelty. The collection is sparse, philosophical, and controversial, as Coetzee compares the treatment of animals to the Holocaust, but in such a manner that seems more thoughtful, complex and innately human than offensive.
  2. We’re all too familiar with ads depicting celebrities sprawled out naked or holding small bright yellow baby chicks, standing under thoughtless taglines: “Chicks love vegetarians” or “Wear Fur? I’d rather go naked.” These attempts at raising awareness are contrived and clichéd, and the jet fuel used to fly Brody Jenner to the studio to have him pose with a baby seal caused more harm to the environment and animals than the ad will save. However, Jesse Eisenberg of Zombieland and The Social Network fame proves that celebrities can contribute to vegetarian discourse in a witty enjoyable way. “Thanksgiving With Vegans” is a part of a larger column of restaurant reviews (published by McSweeney’s), written in the perspective of a nine-year-old. The essay offers a tender reflection of family tradition, the effects of divorce, and veganism. Eisenberg writes, “I don’t totally think the Vegan people are so weird. In a way, it is more weird to eat a bird.”
  3. Three out of three of Jonathan Safran Foer’s books touch on animal rights and vegetarianism/veganism in some sort of fashion. His two works of fiction, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Long Title follow characters who identify as eating a meat-free diet. In 2009, he published Eating Animals, a work of non-fiction, which explores exactly what the title alludes to. After a thorough examination of the fishing industry and factory farming, Foer writes about food and dieting through a cultural lens, writing in a more personal narrative (less scientific) style, drawing on his experiences growing up eating his grandmother’s famous dish: chicken and carrots. Two of these three books mentioned have been adapted to major feature films, so if Franco is still out buying rights to incredibly difficult books to translate to film, I’m excited for Elijah Wood to reprise his role as JSF on the big screen.
  4. The front-runners of early American Literature advocated a flesh-free diet. From Part 1 of Benjamin Franklin’s 1771 autobiography, he writes:

    Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution of not eating animal food, and on this occasion consider’d, with my master Tryon, the taking every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had, or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter.

    So next time you go break a crisp one-hundred on an overzealous sushi spot with dim lighting or to buy enough frozen fish sticks to feed a middle school, look down and into the eyes of Mr. Franklin and re-think your purchase. Thoreau felt the same injustice toward the treatment of fish. In chapter 11 of Walden, or Life in the Woods, he states, “I cannot fish without falling a little in self-respect.” In a culture so wrapped up in tradition, it would seem unjust to not acknowledge the mindset of America’s earliest writers. If Thoreau said it, you can bet Emerson said it a couple years before in a more philosophical, confusing way, so, yeah, there’s that, too.

  5. I flipped a coin to see which 19th century writer would fill the number five slot. Heads—British, Tails—American. Which brings me to D.H. Lawrence’s poem, “Snake.” Sorry, Mr. Sinclair, I thought The Jungle was great. Anyways, Lawrence’s poem depicts a man’s interaction with a snake at a waterhole. The poem questions Western education, masculine identity, and the treatment of animals in a clean accessible way. I have a small toolbox in the discussion of poetry so if my sparse synopsis didn’t please, pick up Upton’s The Jungle and learn about the poor practices of the meatpacking industry. If none of these seem to sway your appetite this holiday season, I have two final suggestions. Make really incredible side dishes to help you avoid the meat centerpiece, or flip back to Franklin’s autobiography, continue reading down the page, and learn that he finally caves for some fried fish. After all, he does justify his step back toward eating animals by saying, “So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.”