Think about it. What could be a more inclusive, more complete Purpose Statement than URI’s? In addition to promoting enduring interfaith cooperation and ending religiously motivated violence, we have also committed to creating “cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and All Living Beings”.
And then, to give greater contour to that concluding purpose, the closing commitment in URI’s Preamble is: “We unite to use our combined resources only for nonviolent, compassionate action, to awaken to our deepest truths, and to manifest love and justice among all life in our Earth community.”
My heart fills with gratitude this season of Thanksgiving for such an inspired and visionary calling by the world’s largest interfaith organization, our own loved United Religions Initiative.
So how might we more fully realize—“make real”—this commitment to peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings? How might we “awaken to our deepest truths and manifest love and justice among all of life in our Earth community?”
Here is a wonderful place to start!
Thanksgiving Day in the United States is this Thursday, November 22nd. Especially given that it is not a religious holiday, Thanksgiving is celebrated by people of many different faiths, as well as people who do not observe a faith tradition. It is therefore very likely the most celebrated holiday in the US, as well as many other households around the world.
And because it is a cherished time for family and friends to gather, a great many households enlarge the circle around their dining table by inviting in people who for whatever reason would otherwise be alone and lonely on the holiday.
And since expressing gratitude is fundamental in most religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions (albeit manifest in many different forms), perhaps we can use the American Thanksgiving holiday as an opportunity to invite URI members around the world to join in taking tangible steps to express our gratitude “for all living beings”.
At the same time, on a more somber note, Thanksgiving Day could well be the single cruelest day of the entire calendar year globally in terms of numbers of animals “harvested”. I refer, of course, to the millions of turkeys whose roasted bodies can be found at the center of most Thanksgiving dining tables.
Isn’t it time for a change?
(And note that if a Thanksgiving turkey isn’t relevant to your own culture or geography, then how about the ham [pig] or lamb or beef [cow] or goat or chicken or rabbit or fish who adorns your holiday table?)
Appreciating Turkeys for Who They Are . . . which is Wonderful!
Please join me in celebrating turkeys as the intelligent, sensitive and social beings they are, full of life and love. When they are allowed to live their natural lives, roaming free, they form deep friendships and emotional bonds. They have a zest for life and enjoy their days. And they live for more than 10 years.
For a start, female turkeys are wonderful mothers, and mom is the center of the universe for her babies. If the young ones become separated, they will panic and send out a lost call. The mother bird will come running and gather them under her wing. In nature, turkeys spend up to 5 months close to their mothers.
Turkeys each have their own unique voice, and they can make more than 20 vocalizations (sounds). That’s how they recognize one another. Male turkeys gobble to attract the attention of the females, and this gobble can be heard from over a mile away.
Turkeys are masters of geography and can learn the precise details of an area more than 1000 acres in size. They’re great at finding treats, and one of their favorites is blackberries! Wild turkeys can fly up to 55 miles an hour and run 18 miles an hour.
Turkeys have been known to enjoy music and even to dance the flamenco!
Though we usually see turkeys wandering around on the ground, they will always choose to sleep up in the trees. They flutter up at dusk and fly down at dawn.
To see many of these behaviors in action, enjoy this wonderful short video: “Baby Turkey Sleeps on Lap,” by Jeremy Hess of VeganInteractions (https://www.facebook.com/groups/583888551756009/permalink/1484020455076143/).
“Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Free-Range Turkeys,” by Angel Flinn and Dan Cudahy. Gentle World, November 19, 2010 (http://gentleworld.org/10-things-everyone-should-know-about-free-range-turkeys/).
“Ten Things You Never Knew About Turkeys,” by Abigail Geer. Care2, October 15, 2014 (http://www.care2.com/causes/10-things-you-never-knew-about-turkeys.html).
“Turkey Facts,” Farm Animal Rights Movement. Compassionate Holidays, accessed November 2018.(http://compassionateholidays.com/).
Recipes for Compassionate Holiday Dining (any time of the year!)
“32 Vegan Recipes that Are Perfect for Thanksgiving,” by Christine Byrne; Buzzfeed, October 15, 2013 (https://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/vegan-thanksgiving-recipes).
“Our Guide to 2018’s Turkey-Less Plant-Based Thanksgiving Entrees!” by Food Monster Editorial Team; One Green Planet, November 18, 2018 (https://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/turkeyless-plantbased-thanksgiving-entrees-2018).
“Best Turkey-Free Main Dishes for Your Holiday,” by Ashley Capps; Free From Harm, November 12, 2018 (https://freefromharm.org/vegan-recipes/best-turkey-alternatives/).
May this Be Your First—Or Perhaps the Last . . .
Every person reading this is doing invaluable work in keeping with some part of the URI Purpose Statement quoted at the beginning of this message. To the extent that we each embrace and work to realize other aspects of the grand, overarching URI mission, we multiply our impact many, many times more.
And so, may this coming Thanksgiving—or whatever holiday comes next for you—be the first one that you choose to celebrate with totally compassionate dining.
If, however, if you’ve already bought the food or have otherwise committed to attending a turkey-centered Thanksgiving dinner this year, then may it be the last one that you observe in this way.
In closing, I offer this fun video for guidance on how to make the transition:
“DawnWatch Guide to Holiday Turkey Preparation” by Karen Dawn,
May we cherish the wonderful creatures we know turkeys to be!
With thanks for all that you do,
Cynthia Sampson, Asheville, North Carolina, USA
Compassion for All Living Beings Cooperation Circle