Outside its thin plastic walls, the cold wind howled against the gondola as it swayed its way up the mountain. Lightly dressed and feeling the repercussions, I sat in silence. Half frozen to my seat, the doors crept open.
Expecting to find a large crowd, I stumbled out of the gondola into more empty night instead. Under a few small lamps, the familiar summit seemed almost entirely foreign, as I struggled to grasp my bearings. A few steps from the log and stone lodge, I caught my first signs of life. But still all I heard was the crunch of snow beneath my boots.
Just as the sharp teeth of the cold began to bite my fingers, they met the door, and then my senses erupted. The sounds, of tens, if not hundreds of conversations bouncing across the vaulted dining hall. The soft blanket of the heat that spewed from the fireplace. The warm tones of the wooden walls. And the rich smells of the Thanksgiving feast. My tongue began to tingle.
In line I stood, anxiously, inching toward the food, each passing moment more painful than the last. Around me I watched as people devoured their plates, with pauses of smiles and laughter in between. Then, finally, the warm porcelain of a freshly washed plate dropped into my hand, and I began my assault on the serving line. "Mashed potatoes?", "yes please!", "Stuffing?", "I'll take it!". I said yes to everything, as the weight of my plate began to challenge my hand. But with only one dish left to accept, a panic ensued.
My initial inclination was to say "yes", but then came the guilt. You see, about eight months ago, I began eating a pescatarian diet (vegetarian+fish). I'd given up pork a few months prior after witnessing the blood curdling screams of a truck filled with pigs, and after a few more months of research, I'd seen enough to give up more meat. It wasn't just the cruelty of factory farming, the negative environmental effects of cattle grazing, or the desire to eat less processed foods, but all the above.
At the beginning of my new diet, I wasn’t entirely committed. But as the weeks went by, it became a part of my identity. Sure, my options at restaurants were limited, and I at times craved a burger, but as days turned to weeks, my cravings for meat turned into cravings for quinoa and hummus.
But there I was being offered a thick slice of moist Thanksgiving turkey. And despite a strong belief in a primarily vegetable diet, I answered "yes please".
I ate everything else on my plate first, attempting to find enough satisfaction in my many sides, but a Thanksgiving meal without turkey just didn't feel right. Half expecting to find horror in the first bite, I was surprised to find delight instead. And after that first bite I barely stopped to breathe, as I inhaled the remaining slice. But despite this one delicious piece of turkey, I don’t plan on going out and buying meat anytime soon. Because for 364 days out of the year, I'm perfectly fine with my "Boca burgers" and salads.
The issue of a meatless diet is not at all black and white, nor is it rigid. From free range meat, to veggie alternatives that taste nearly identical, and soon onto lab grown meat, the ability to source our food in a more ethical manner has never been greater in the modern world. And while the sustainability of a world without factory farming has yet to be proven on this scale, I think everyone should at least give some thought to exploring their options.
Perhaps you'll find that a slice of turkey on Thanksgiving is enough, or maybe you'll find that you choose meat for every meal, but at least you'll understand. Ignorance is NOT bliss for the BILLIONS of animals who live their brief lives in the horrendous conditions of factory farms. But this one day a year I suppose we can give ourselves a pass. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
"Moderation in all things – including moderation" -Benjamin Franklin