This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the countless manifestations of love that happen every single day across the United States and world.
With this holiday’s ever-increasing toll on turkeys, I am especially grateful to those whose love and respect extends to these animals, whether wild or domesticated.
The other night one of my favorite talk show hosts, Stephen Colbert, whom I appreciate in no small part because of his compassion (limited, as it may be, to humans and puppies), was making fun of domestic turkeys. He repeated the falsehood that they will drown if they look up during a rainstorm.
Wild turkeys certainly run the gamut in terms of intelligence – turkey intelligence, that is – just as humans run the gamut in terms of human intelligence. I imagine turkeys are more intelligent by human standards than humans are by turkey standards.
I don’t know what domestication does to a species’ intelligence. For the purposes of this post, I don’t care. As the18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham stated:
The question is not Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?“
I don’t blame Colbert or his writers for their ignorance. As the massacre last weekend in Colorado Springs reminds us, it’s much easier to do harm to others when we eliminate or minimize our ability to relate to or empathize with them.
US society enables and encourages the ignorance shown by the CBS talk show host. It would be bad for big ag and politicians and media conglomerates for people in the United States to have the whole story of the lives and deaths of turkeys and chickens and others.
I should say I don’t blame him much. Colbert’s ignorance has a willful component to it. And with his platform, he has the responsibility of paying particular attention to the impacts of his words.
Here in the states, we love chicken. And on Thanksgiving, we love turkey. We care little for chickens and turkeys, mind you. Or for pigs, or cows, or fishes, …
Except, we do. Many of us. Many of us won’t eat them. Many of us advocate for them, sharing with others our stories of why we don’t eat them. Many of us provide homes for those who are rescued from factory farms. Many of us are friends with these animals and share with them the same loving bonds that other humans share with dogs and cats.
I am so grateful to those of you who have taught and continue to teach me to expand my circles of compassion and to those of you within those circles. An especially Happy Thanksgiving to you!