U students host turkey-free holiday

Amber Schadewald

Rebecca Ford grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, but today she doesn’t drink milk. She also doesn’t eat yogurt, cheese or any other animal product, and hasn’t for almost three years.

Ford, a political science and global studies senior, became a vegan during her first year at the University after learning about factory farming and the exploitation of animals through Compassionate Action for Animals.

On Saturday, the student group of which Ford is now a member hosted its fourth annual Twin Cities Turkey-Free Thanksgiving Feast at the University Baptist Church in Dinkytown.

About 200 people from campus and surrounding communities enjoyed a smorgasbord of traditional holiday foods with an animal-friendly twist, including Tofurkey (tofu made to taste like turkey), vegan garlic mashed potatoes, vegan pumpkin-coconut pie and vegan sushi.

After preparing food for the feast, Ford ate with her sister, Kelly Ford, a first-year nursing student who also attended the event.

This year, the entire Ford family will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday at home in Wisconsin with an all-vegan menu.

The family decided it would be a chance for them to cook new foods together.

“And this way I can give thanks that I’m having a cruelty-free meal,” Rebecca Ford said.

Kelly Ford said she’s completely fine with a turkey-less dinner.

“As long as there is green bean casserole, it doesn’t matter,” she said.

Rebecca Ford said her family has been really supportive of her choice to become vegan, though her parents plan to continue dairy farming.

“I’m supportive of my parents, but not (supportive of) using animals for food,” she said.

Many vegan and vegetarians still endorse small family farms as an alternative to factory farming, but Rebecca Ford said she disagrees with any type of animal-product consumption by humans. But she said she’s grateful for her parents and the hard work they’ve put into the farm – that’s what makes it a complex situation.

“(The farm) is the way my parents have supported me,” she said. “But I personally don’t think humans need cows for milk.”

Kelly Ford still works on the farm. She said she enjoys the atmosphere and has no plans to cut animal products from her diet, noting that it would be contradictory for a vegan to work on a farm.

When asked if their conflicting values create tension between them, the sisters shook their heads.

As long as we don’t talk about it, they said.

From vegans to meat eaters, the turkey-free feast attracted students with a range of dietary values. Allison Brown, an economics and French junior, who has only been a vegetarian since September, said she was a bit hesitant about trying the Tofurkey.

“It wasn’t as gross as I thought it would be,” she said.

Brown said she is particularly excited for this Thanksgiving; it will be the first time she’ll pass up the turkey. Brown admitted that she’ll miss tradition of eating turkey on Thanksgiving.

Brown said she decided to be a vegetarian for both health and ethical reasons. Her vegan friend Lauren Haberly, an art and art history senior, inspired her to make the switch and has been helping her learn how to eat without meat.

Besides the food, Brown and Haberly said they appreciated the community aspect of the potluck.

Brown said it’s nice to know she’s not alone in her dietary ethics, an issue that sometimes raises questions from friends, family members and even strangers when she tells

them she doesn’t eat meat anymore.

“People always look surprised and ask, ‘Oh, what are you going to eat?’ ” she said.

University first-year student Brian Sanders is not a vegetarian, but was brought to the potluck by three of his vegetarian friends. He said he dislikes animal cruelty, but he’s “just not opposed to eating meat.”

Sanders said he is looking forward to Thanksgiving, but he wouldn’t be too upset if the meal didn’t include meat.

“I’d be fine without the turkey,” he said. “But if I didn’t have the cranberries, I’d be sad.”

Brown said that during her transition to vegetarianism, it was important to her that she was the one making the decision and not being pushed.

The hardest part of the switch, she said, is not the avoiding meat part, but rather the feeling that she’s going against American culture.

“I challenge people to at least be open-minded to it,” Brown said. “It’s not something only hippies do.”