Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
A few years ago, I became a vegetarian. Eliminating meat from my diet benefits the environment and my health, and felt like the morally right thing to do. This time of year, one thing stands out to me: Americans eat 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving day. That’s a huge number, especially given that many people don’t even like turkey. It’s infamously tasteless, dry and sleep-inducing. Ultimately, Thanksgiving has created a culture of meat-eating when it may not be necessary.
Meat production, in general, has massive effects on the environment. Turkey production is even worse because most turkey comes from one of 20 companies, and is concentrated around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Because there are only a small number of turkey companies, the farm factories for these companies are much larger than if the industry had many competitors. Larger factories then have a greater impact on local environments and communities.
Turkey farms produce massive amounts of waste containing both pesticides and antibiotics; this waste then runs into streams and rivers, adding more chemicals to our water supply. In addition to the tons of waste these factories produce, turkeys are far heavier than, say, chickens, meaning more fuel is needed to transport them. Environmentally, this holiday is causing more problems than it needs to.
Then, of course, comes the issue of slaughtering 46 million turkeys when many of us don’t even enjoy eating it. Thanksgiving pushes us to maintain an industry of slaughter for just one day when we could easily eliminate it. A study found that from 1909 to 2012, Americans were eating far less turkey than chicken, beef or pork. Even before I went vegetarian, I didn’t eat meat for every meal, or even every day. The average American consumes a small amount of turkey each year, except on Thanksgiving, and probably wouldn’t feel the loss from their diet.
If you aren’t eating turkey most other days of the year, then you probably don’t like it too much. If eating turkey weren’t such a huge Thanksgiving tradition, most of us would probably choose some other kind of meat and enjoy it more. The turkey industry could then be severely downsized, significantly reducing American consumers’ environmental impact.
It’s important to ask if the negatives are worth the tradition. Maybe next year, you’ll opt for something else.
Liyanga de Silva is a sophomore English major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.