Vegetarians plan turkeyless holiday

Chelsie Hanstad

When University sophomore Gilbert Schwartz was in seventh grade, he decided to become a vegetarian.

And he decided to start on Thanksgiving.

Now Schwartz – like millions of other vegans and vegetarians – is heading home for Thanksgiving. Despite not eating the

holiday’s traditional main course, non-meat-eating students said family and friends generally support their beliefs.

“At first, (my family) thought it was just a phase, but they respect me,” Schwartz said. “They still eat meat, but not that much anymore.”

Philosophy graduate student Ramona Ilea also said her family is supportive.

“My father is a big carnivore,” she said. “He supports us and what we’re doing but he cannot do it himself.”

Ilea and Schwartz are both members

of Compassionate Action for Animals, a campus organization that seeks to inform people about vegetarianism through food giveaways, speakers, tables with information in Coffman Union and potlucks. The organization hosted one such potluck recently, calling it the “Turkey Free Thanksgiving.”

Instead of turkey, the meal featured UnTurkeys. These non-turkeys are shaped like real turkeys, have fake skin and even include a wishbone in the middle, said vegan Greg Oschwald.

“I don’t know if it tastes like real turkey,” said Ilea, a longtime vegan. A nearby diner, however, decided it did not.

But UnTurkey is not the only substitute for actual meat.

“UnTurkey, Tofurky, Tofu Turkey and Not Ham are the biggest and most well known in terms of full Thanksgiving meals,” said Ravi Chand, vegan outreach campaign coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. For regular meals, there are also brands that make slices of those foods for sandwiches, faux bacon and other products, Chand said.

Stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries and other holiday foods were also featured at the meal, but most foods were vegan.

Vegans do not eat any animal products including eggs, while vegetarians usually just do not eat meat, or fish, Oschwald said.

Compassionate Action for Animals leaders held the potluck to build a sense of community among campus vegans and vegetarians and to expose people to vegan and vegetarian food, Ilea said.

The group is also raising awareness about the treatment of turkeys grown to be slaughtered and is collecting money for an Adopt-a-Turkey program.

“The conditions for turkeys are not good,” Ilea said. She added that turkeys’ beaks are sometimes cut off and parts of their toes as well. Usually each turkey gets about three feet of living space – not enough to stretch their wings, Ilea said.

Minnesota surpassed North Carolina this year as the largest turkey producer in the nation, according to a study by University economist Brian Buhr. The National Turkey Federation still ranks Minnesota number two.

The money raised by the Adopt-A-Turkey program will go to an organization called Farm Sanctuary, which takes care of turkeys recovering from abuse.