The Thinking Vegan Readers Sound Off On Thanksgiving

By on November 27, 2013


46 million turkeys are violently killed for Thanksgiving alone. As vegans, Thanksgiving is one of the most difficult holidays to navigate whether it’s sitting at the family table with the carcass of a dead bird or seeing the glorification of violence towards turkeys on TV, the grocery store, Facebook…So, I think it might be helpful for you to share your frustrations, how you navigate the holiday, etc. for other vegans to read.

Luckily I am surrounded by a great community of fellow ethical vegans and friends and usually someone will host a potluck Thanksgiving so we all get to skip the carcass. – Melissa Griswold


“Every day, over 40,000 children die in the world for lack of food. We, who overeat in the West, who are feeding grains to animals to make meat, are eating the flesh of these children.” Thick Nhat Hahn – Patty Shenker


I DESPISE Thanksgiving, and like ThanksLiving instead! – Charlene Inglis


People know how I feel and I get vegan options, by honestly I want to boycott Thanksgiving all together. – Kristie Lyon


I stay home and away from family. I won’t celebrate with a dead bird on the table. I don’t need one day to give thanks either. I am thankful every day for what I have. – Tamra Rose


I also refuse to eat in an environment where a dead animal is present. I cannot tolerate the sight or smell. Nor do I enjoy being in the company of those who exercise cruelty as a means of giving thanks. I have been hosting vegan Thanksgiving at my home for years now. My adult sons and their families are present as well as vegan friends. My non-vegan family members are always welcome. My mom has surprised us by attending two Thanksgiving dinners at my house. Never thought she would be willing to give up the deceased bird! – Kim Elizabeth Johnson


I usually stay home as well. But this year three of us are having a vegan potluck. Field Roast, gravy, cranberry, sweet potato casserole, cherry pie, and hot apple cider (organic, of course). – Ellen Kessler


One of those 46 million turkeys will be at my families’ table, so I will not be sitting with them. Family or not, I cannot & will not be thankful for or except this way of celebrating. Ever. – Franken Stand


Wonderful topic Gary. It was for this very reason that over 6 years ago a few friends and I went to one of our amazing vegan restaurants in town, Green New American Vegetarian and had many meetings with the owner, Damon Brasch to encourage and support him in opening on Thanksgiving day with a Thanksliving dinner. I still dislike the whole concept of Thanksgiving and the horrific torture inflicted to any animal anywhere, however, at least I have a place to go on Thanksgiving day with people who feel the same and can feel I was proactive in having a part in creating the event. Last year we served over 650 vegan Thanksliving meals! – Mitzi Lynton


I too enjoy amazing vegan potlucks with amazing vegan friends. I say no to any Thanksgiving gathering that is not fully vegan. –Shelly Gramza


This is my first vegan Thanksgiving, & I’m grateful this year for the new awareness I have, much of which has come from wonderful folks like you. I’ll continue to eat alongside the turkey eaters (my family, who I love) as long as I can – not because it doesn’t sadden me greatly, but because I was once like all of those people, and I want to reflect the peace & compassion I feel now. They know how I feel, and maybe in time one of them – just maybe – will want to have what I have now. I’m going to be there with them when & if that ever happens. I wish all of you peace during this holiday season, and for our non-human friends everywhere — a more just world as soon as possible. – Laurice Adams Bray


Staying home. Cooking and spending quality time with my vegan Mom. We just prefer it that way. – Karen Silbert


Vegan Thanksgiving with our chosen family. That is the only way that worked for us; it was too painful otherwise. – Marla Rose


Turn off my TV and try to work. – Kelly Harris


It’s really difficult for me. It’s so ingrained in our society as being socially acceptable. Most non vegans are shocked or offended that we feel this way about Thanksgiving. – Melanie Langston-Bazzell


We bring along our tofurkey and white knuckle it. – Melissa Linde David


Last year I brought my own food, but my brother in-law as a joke (before we sat to eat) took my plate outside and returned it with grass clippings. Classy. – Elder de Andrade


I’m thinking of having a media blackout starting Tuesday or Wednesday going thru the weekend so I don’t have to see all the dead birds on tv, Facebook, etc or what everyone is doing with the leftover carcasses. – Andi Glover-Hoone


Luckily I have a buffer zone between me in Florida and the relatives in Massachusetts. My husband and I had a wonderful thanksgiving celebration sponsored by the Vegetarians of Central Florida and Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. It’s all vegan fare potluck at a park, they provided Tofurky, Field Roast or Gardein Roast. And we’ll go to a wildlife refuge Thanksgiving day then have a vegan meal together. I couldn’t do a family meal with the carcass. The smell alone makes me wretch. I’d visit later, bringing a nice vegan dessert and beverages for all to share. – Cynthia Amoruso


I treat Thanksgiving how I do other holidays- zen line state induced by copious amounts of wine and mashed potatoes (with Earth Balance). – Kelly Morgan


Not for thanks giving but for Christmas- make a brilliant nut roast! – Terri Shrubb


I don’t watch TV much at all to begin with, so that part’s not that difficult. When shopping, most of my food purchases come from certain sections, so I just navigate and avoid the meat section as much as possible. As far as Thanksgiving day itself, we’re still having the meal with our omni family but at least the turkey carcass is kept in the kitchen and not on the table. All food is in the kitchen buffet-style, I guess. I usually make a main, a side, a bread, and a dessert to bring and share. I’m thinking maybe next year or the year after, things might change as to eating with everyone else depending on how my son (almost 4) takes things once he understands more about what it means that the rest of our family (DH included) aren’t vegan. – Nikki Taylor


One positive note, my grandkids, who are 2 and 4, let their mommy and daddy know that they didn’t want to see a dead turkey and people eating it, so I get to have them at my house for a Vegan Feast. – Linda Dale


I have the only small children in the family, which means I have all the power. Thanksgiving is at our house and no animal products are allowed people can attend or not, we will be enjoying a vegan feast with our little angels either way. (I think our head count is presently at 6, in addition to our family of four). I try to use my powers for good! – Rayne Pearson


And Xmas!!!? It’s awful! The adverts showing all these birds… All all death sentence! – Adriana Mendes


This year its really bothering. Normally ignore it. Been spreading the word of cruelty free and respect for all living creatures. Asking people to think of the difference between their beloved pet and the dead carcass on the table. We don’t celebrate at thanksgiving anyway – glorification of the theft if land and the spread of disease. No thanks. – Veronica Rice McCray


I have not dined on a holiday with carnists for decades. It is a time to come together in spirit and they are not with me in spirit. As a former chef, we eat absurdly well and have much to be thankful for. Sometimes I try something new, but this year we are having the best of the best from prior holidays. This year, however, latkes for breakfast. – Curran Russell


Most years for Thanksgiving we bring our own food to my in-laws and I drink a little more than I should to try to distract myself (not a healthy choice, I know…) and suffer through the sad day. This is going to be my 20th Thanksgiving without eating turkey and my husband and I decided it is time for new traditions. We are having our own vegan Thanksgiving and volunteering. We are participating in the 46 million turkeys art project ( – an amazing undertaking! and going to a vegan dessert potluck tonight for the show’s opening night!) and we went to a Gentle Thanksgiving at a local farm animal sanctuary (Peace Ridge Sanctuary) that we volunteer every weekend at, for an amazing vegan feast. We also sponsor a turkey at PRS. And soon I will plaster photos of beautiful, happy, amazing turkeys all over Facebook to show people there is a better, kinder way to give thanks. – Melissa Andrews


It’s not just another holiday to exploit animals but it is also comparable to Columbus Day. A holiday based on lies and the exploitation of indigenous people. A holiday where people gorge on the suffering and exploitation of beautiful sentient beings. There is nothing to celebrate. It should be boycotted just like Columbus Day. I won’t eat a tofu turkey because it is still celebrating the evil. In past years I have endured seeing the carcass of a tortured soul being devoured just to be able to spend time with family. I can no longer endure this. I can see family another day. – Kristen True


This is my (and my boyfriend’s) first Thanksgiving since going Vegan. It has been a really difficult time for me and I have been very depressed thinking about how many innocent lives will be taken for the pleasure of people’s palates. I try to sympathize with people because I have been there, but it is really challenging to remember when being constantly bombarded. I have chosen to participate in Thanksliving where we are celebrating the lives of animals and not taking part in this horrible slavery and murder of sentient beings. I even had my mother who is not vegan and opposed to really having me talk to her about Veganism offer to throw a fully vegan feast in honor of us and the animals. So I’m trying to find the silver lining in all this. – Christine Auclair


I am tired of seeing people fall for the illusion that a dead tortured bird and a bunch of sides served at some perfect family gathering is the proper way to be thankful. Many people in the world right now would be thankful for a cup of rice or a peanut butter sandwich to eat, yet in America we have to promote death and gorging ourselves to show we are thankful. I eat a vegan meal at home with a few others and just ignore most of it. I see my family on X-Mas morning but I don’t eat with them as a dead pig bothers ,e even more than a dead bird ( maybe because they are my fellow mammals’s just true)It’s also nice to ignore Black Thursday, Friday whatever as well as Thanksgiving. – Bradley Neil Moser


I stopped celebrating holidays. Esp tday, as it historically about abusing and misusing native amer and turkeys. – Jo Schechinger


Every year I get the astonished, “What do you EAT??” As if it is completely unfathomable that the almighty turkey is the only food in the world that day. My response is generally to ask them how many other things are served at their table, how many side dishes – is the table full of many many choices? There are literally too many things to eat on Thanksgiving – it is not hard to make different choices. I keep this simple – obviously my mashed potatoes are not going to have the dairy theirs do – but people never want to think outside the box – and when they do – they really can’t argue. – Amy Booth


I will preface this by saying that, for us, the holiday is much easier than it is for some, because our whole household is vegan (except for the cat), but if I was celebrating with non-vegans, I would offer to host the celebration, and would assure everyone that they don’t need to bring anything and that everything will be delicious (and vegan). I know this isn’t an option for everyone (like people that live with non-vegans who aren’t willing to accommodate the desire for a death-free Thanksgiving), but for vegans who have their own (vegan) homes, it’s one way. We’re pretty flexible about when we celebrate the holiday meals, so we’re cool with having a holiday meal the day before or the day after, or making it a big lunch instead of a dinner/supper, so this can be helpful, too. Some people may insist on having turkey, so this way they can eat it on their own time, rather than expecting us to be present for that meal (even just as observers who are expected to sit quietly, smile politely, act as if everything is normal, etc.). This way our meal can be a completely happy one, where everyone can get in the spirit of celebrating.

I also agree that the holiday is problematic in and of itself, as has been pointed out! But maybe all the holidays are… I’ve been finding old traditions (done ethically) comforting lately, but maybe in future we should create new holidays? – Kimberly Burns


Seeing the television ads and listening to people planning their Thanksgiving menu’s just hurts my heart. But more than that is the denial – denying that things are really as bad as they are for the animals, that we are destroying our planet and our health with such unnecessary cruelty. I have no real support outside social media so I try to keep my knowledge to myself. Knowing I am doing the right thing is only slight consolation when the ridicule starts, and the inevitable protein issue comes up. I do though, have to keep reminding myself that there was a time in my life when I was uninformed and reluctant to accept the truth.(I just wish I had accepted it far sooner than I did.) – Cynthia Derrick


This is the hardest of holidays for me. My husband and two boys are vegan and this year we are spending it with just us. I cannot handle it any other way. I get depressed and cry most of the day anyway, so it’s best to just be by myself. No television or social media – just a good book and some Cherokee Indian flute meditation music. My heart hurts so badly this time of year. – Jen Champion


Well, my mom asked me to pick up the turkey she ordered. Then asked if I had room in my oven to cook the turkey breast she got, in addition to the whole turkey. I bring my entire vegan meal to the dinner because no one makes anything vegan, even tho many of the recipes could easily be made vegan. – Tammy Lee


If I’m honest to my ethics I just want to boycott Thanksgiving and acknowledge it with only a moment of silence for the indigenous people whose genocide was precipitated by Thanksgiving and for the millions of turkeys (as well as all animals) who are killed. But I also feel obligated to my family to participate and take the opportunity to spend time with them. This really is a difficult time. I feel guilty and disgusted by this holiday, yet I don’t feel that I can boycott it. Stay strong fellow vegans. – Julia Richardson


We actually opted out of our large family gatherings years ago, and instead celebrate the next day with a vegan get together for just a few of us. We do the same for Christmas. It’s been such a relief and the holiday finally holds the correct sentiment. I used to attend the large gatherings and quietly hold my tongue in response to all the dead animal jokes that inevitably came, but now I can simply celebrate with those I love without having to feel hypocritical giving thanks around a table full of meat with people who just refuse to get it. & this year, for an even nicer treat, we are sharing our get together with another wonderful vegan family, so it will really feel like a true holiday get together.  – Melissa Kress


I don’t know how it happened or how we got away with it, but my husband and I (both vegans) have completely avoided our entirely non-vegan families on Tgiving for 10 years and are still on very good terms with the lot of them. You can have it both ways. There is no reason to cave to society’s behavioral demands that this is magically some special day that you have to adhere to a certain way. What’s strange, to me, is that this holiday provokes so many of us so much. It seems the perfect storm of bad behaviors that all align on one little day. But in practice, the exact same behavior is demonstrated every other day. I’ve sat down for lunch with co-workers, and there is no way they are vegans. There is something about Tgiving that brings out the worst though, the gluttony, the haughtiness over the victims, etc. – Rhonda Bowlin


I just find it incredibly annoying that meat eaters won’t watch how their meat lived and died. I know that it would make a difference, and they know it too. – Kim May


I politely decline any invitations and take a vacation instead – go skiing, hiking, road trip, national park, anything other than having a “traditional” dinner. Just make sure to purchase food to carry along the day prior, many restaurants and grocery stores are closed on that day. I always took my son skiing for Thanksgiving when he was young. – Carol Dawn


Thankfully my local animal rights group puts on an annual feast with more delicious food and fabulous friends than one could ever imagine any “blood family” to have. Everyone is either vegan or veg-curious. I love the idea of celebrating with like-minded people and the meal is always good for my heart. – Bea Elliott


  1. Kelly Maer
    November 28, 2013

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    If all the vegans in the world could gather together on Thanksgiving day in protest of this horrible slaughter ritual what a powerful message that would bring.

  2. Anon
    November 18, 2016

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    I cry for all these little birds, I love Vegans and try to eat cruelty free, it’s hard when other people use my food choices to tease me. I love animals and don’t want to hurt them and get angry when I see how apathetic human beings are and how some people just expect animals to die for us, like they are inanimate objects. It’s hurtful to me also because I see animals as individuals and many of them are nicer than the people that murder them. Yes meat is murder, you cannot sugar coat it, it is what it is, so for meat eaters that want to laugh it becomes even crueler than if they would just show sympathy for the animals and try with little effort to minimize the damage they do. It is heartbreaking they kill and don’t even care to acknowledge the animal at all. Bless you Vegans and ethical eaters who aren’t perfect but trying.

  3. Marla
    October 15, 2019

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    Wow, this article is from 2013! But I am so grateful I found it. I am near tears from the pressure I”m getting from family about Thanksgiving. If you ever even see this, thank you so much for your comments, suggestions and support. I really needed to hear from you tonight! You are all so beautiful and thoughtful.

    • Kezia Jauron
      October 15, 2019

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      I’m so glad to hear this resonated with you. We really miss doing these “crowdsourced” posts where lots of people offer their personal stories. Your words are proof that they have meaning.

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