Befitting their role as the traditional centerpiece of a Thanksgiving table, some 46 million turkeys are slaughtered every November. Most of them are just babies — a mere five or six months old. While Americans are giving thanks for their many blessings, these birds don’t have much to be grateful for.But a number of Asheville-area groups are working to shift the attention away from turkey and tryptophan. They’re creating a new vision for Thanksgiving dinner that celebrates compassion for all.
Animal Haven, Asheville’s farm animal sanctuary, is hosting a three-course Plantsgiving fundraiser at Plant restaurant on Wednesday, Nov. 23, for $45 per person. The money raised will help care for the sanctuary’s chicken, pig, geese, sheep and other residents.
“Many things — particularly holidays — are steeped with tradition,” says Trina Hudson, co-founder of Animal Haven. “For Thanksgiving, some of these traditions include family, giving thanks and a bountiful meal. That doesn’t mean a turkey, and there are so many alternatives available that allow you to not only have a compassionate meal, but a delicious one as well.”
The original idea for Plantsgiving was dreamed up 10 years ago by Plant co-owner, chef, and former Animal Haven volunteer Jason Sellers, who wanted to support the sanctuary with a cruelty-free feast.
At Sanctuary Brewing Co. in Hendersonville, owners Joe Dinan and Lisa McDonald brewed a seasonal pumpkin saison to do their part for compassion. From the sale of each Dinde Saison (dinde means turkey, in French), 50 cents is donated to help to sponsor a rescued turkey. So far, SBC has sponsored four at Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge in Pittsboro, N.C.
“We’ve had the privilege of spending time with turkeys that have been rescued and are living out their days in a happy environment,” explains McDonald. “These are charming, flirtatious and hilarious animals. They love attention and will show off to get it. They bond with humans and animals and are very docile.”
Unfortunately, she adds, the fact that they also taste good is what gets them killed and eaten by the millions. In addition to their efforts at Sanctuary, she and Dinan host a vegan Thanksgiving at their home every year.
One of the items served at their table is The Pardon, a plant-meat turkey alternative created by Asheville’s No Evil Foods. “With The Pardon, I think we made something that’s really connects to the experience of turkey. One of our staff members who’s not vegetarian or vegan said he liked it better than turkey,” says co-founder Mike Wollansky.
For every $25 worth of purchases of The Pardon, $1 goes towards the sponsorship of Xander and Xena, two turkeys who live at Full Circle Farm Sanctuary in Warm Springs, Ga. This year, The Pardon sold out, with nearly 400 of them being shipped out from coast to coast.
No Evil Foods co-founder Sadrah Schadel says Thanksgiving — and the nostalgia that goes with it — is big in her family. But as growing numbers of people wake up to the realities of food production, things are starting to change. “More and more people are becoming aware of the connection between animal agriculture and climate change, between the consumption of animal products and the effects on health, of the mistreatment of farmed animals, etc.” says Schadel. “In light of all that awareness, people’s traditional notions of Thanksgiving are already changing.”
There are other plant-based celebrations happening in the Asheville area in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Asheville Vegan Society is hosting a dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 23, catered by Eden Out. In addition, Eden Out will offer an order-ahead vegan takeout menu for people who prefer not to cook. Also, THE BLOCK off biltmore is organizing a Thanksliving potluck on Thanksgiving Day.
So if turkey is taken off the table, what does Thanksgiving become? In the words of Animal Haven co-founder Barb Bellows: “We would wish for all turkeys to be served a homemade pumpkin pie and for all humans to be served plant-based food surrounded by the ones they love.”