Meat-shaming has been taken to a new level.
This month, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are launching a new billboard campaign in several major American cities that aims to make you rethink making turkey a part of your Thanksgiving dinner.
The billboard features an animated baby bird crying, saying, “Mommy! Mommy!,” while looking at a roasted turkey. Above the illustration are the words, “Let everyone be with their family.”
“Thanksgiving is really a time for family, of course, so this billboard is meant to remind people that family isn’t only for people,” said Lindsay Rajt, associate director of campaigns for PETA. “A lot of people are surprised to find out that mother turkeys are very attached and protective of their young.”
Rajt, herself a vegan, said this new poultry-centered campaign is “near and dear” to her heart.
“As a child, when I found out that the chicken I ate had been a real living thing, I was horrified,” she said, recalling growing up in a “meat and potatoes family” in Michigan. “I think a lot of kids have that reaction,” said Rajt.
PETA's newest billboard campaign, for Thanksgiving 2014. (Illustration: PETA)
As a country, the U.S. leads the world in turkey consumption by a wide margin. In 2012, Americans ate 16.5 pounds per capita, according to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association (USPoultry). Canada, the next-leading nation, consumed 9.4 pounds per capita in the same year. Overall, 240 million turkeys were produced in the U.S. in 2013.
Rajt likened the treatment of those birds at the hands of factory farmers to “horrific cruelty.”
Poultry industry professionals obviously disagree with PETA’s anti-turkey stance. When told about its new campaign, National Turkey Federation spokesperson Kimmon Williams said, “the industry takes pride in how well the birds are treated.”
“The industry got together to show what a turkey farm and processing plant are like,” Williams said. What resulted was a video tour of a typical turkey farm and processing plant, hosted by renowned animal welfare expert Temple Grandin, who has a doctorate in animal science.
“I’m really pleased that the industry wanted the public to see this process,” Grandin said of the 2013 project, co-sponsored by the American Meat Institute. There’s a lot of good work going on in animal agriculture and I’m glad we’re telling our story openly and honestly.”
Turkey production dropped from 7.56 billion pounds of meat 2012 to 7.28 billion pounds in 2013 — a difference of 13 million birds — according to USPoultry.
If you are considering a meat-free Thanksgiving, how does PETA suggest you replace the turkey? The group offers several vegetarian and vegan recipes on its website and promoted the use of mock-turkey roasts, including Tofurky, Quorn Turk’y Roast and the Gardein Stuffed Turk’y.
PETA is currently in negotiations with advertising companies in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Phoenix and Salt Lake City to run the billboard.
Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.