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Thanks to the turkey

NOV 29 - Last week in the US was special in that the people observed the Thanksgiving holidays with at least four days of leave from their offices, though technically Friday was supposed to be a working day. Much like our Dashain festival, Thanksgiving in the US is an occasion for families to gather together, taking a break from the busy life most people have to lead. Family reunions are planned months ahead, most people leave for the gathering soon after work on Wednesday. Thanksgiving is observed every year on the fourth Thursday of November. The occasion was initially meant to thank whoever it may be for the bountiful harvest provided to the American people. The tradition was introduced in New England by the English immigrants more than 400 years ago.

Not unlike the Dashain festival in Nepal, Thanksgiving in the US sees a rush on the highways — and airways — with people rushing out mostly to their family gatherings for the sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner. And what is so special about the Thanksgiving dinner? The most important thing about the Thanksgiving dinner is the presence of as many family members as possible. The other speciality is the turkey served for the feast. According to one writer, “Thanksgiving is all about iconic foods. For many, the centrepiece has to be turkey; there must be cranberry sauce to go with it, and lots of vegetable dishes, among them squash or sweet potatoes (or both).”

Just like the goat or buffalo, sacrificed at various altars or just slaughtered, meat becomes the centrepiece of Dashain festival meals, turkey is the essential ingredient of the Thanksgiving meal. How many four-legged animals are killed in Nepal during the festival? Well, no one knows exactly; but the number certainly runs into tens of thousands. And how many turkeys are slaughtered in the US for Thanksgiving? According to official US Department of Agriculture figures, it is well over 45 million turkeys! That is, according to the statistics, one-sixth of all the turkeys sold in the US each year.

Despite the massive slaughter of the fowl each year, there is hardly a murmur against the killings. In our own country, there have been, for the past some time, organised opposition to slaughter of four-legged animals during the Dashain festival. Was such opposition due to real or true love for the animals or was the opposition subtly based on religious beliefs? The only religions that should have an objection to animal sacrifice are the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and similar other religions, if only because in the essence of these religions, all creatures with life are said to be divine in one way or the other.

Abrahamic religions, on the other hand, consider humans to be far superior to other living creatures. Surely, those animal and bird lovers who oppose animal sacrifice during the Dashain festival would be appalled at the huge number of turkeys slaughtered during Thanksgiving in the US. On an internet blog, a Muslim noted the huge number of turkeys killed for Thanksgiving. He wrote, “The same people who kill millions of turkeys for Thanksgiving cry foul when Muslims slaughter the sacrificial lamb for Haj Id. Why the double standards?” Why indeed?

It is not as if there is no opposition to the turkey slaughter in the US by animal and bird lovers who want to prevent cruelty to animals and birds. But such opposition is not highlighted in the media as it is done in our part of the world with the result that anti-killing moves go virtually unnoticed. The fact is that fowls and animals meant for slaughter are bred in what is thought to be cruel ways. Their movements are restricted, and they are not allowed to move about freely so that they weigh much more than they would if allowed to wander around. Perhaps this is the kind of breeding that goes on in poultry farms in our country when it comes to chicken that are mass produced, slaughtered and marketed.  

Thanksgiving in the US is also an occasion for a shopping spree, much like the Dashain shopping in Nepal. Immediately following Thanksgiving on Thursday comes Friday when shopping in malls and on-line takes place on an unprecedented scale. On that particular day called Black Friday, consumers expect drastic price cuts on branded items, and they try to avail themselves of the cheaper prices before stocks run out. The occasion is also used for shopping for Christmas which is just a month away. The

shopping, movement of people across the US and family dinners apart, the most essential ingredient of Thanksgiving remains the turkey; and almost certainly the people have the turkey to thank for making Thanksgiving a success.


Posted on: 2012-11-30 09:21

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