“Turkey Season” is upon us and visions of the emblematic bird have returned home to roost.

First is the cartoon dream of the turkey, a barrel-chested, sunset-feathered fellow bedecked in a Pilgrim hat. This is the turkey school kids learn to see in tracings of their splayed fingers, that great ambassador of gratitude reminding us to appreciate the bounty that is ours. When next we see our friend the turkey, it is glistening golden-brown and laid to rest on a bed of rosemary, having climbed into the oven to roast itself as a reward for the sincerely thankful. Less iconic are those images of the turkey as it undergoes the turbulent adolescence between its dapper hat-wearing days and its debut as entrée.

Around 40 million dead turkeys will grace the tables of American diners this Thanksgiving, and before the majority of those millions were killed, they spent their brief lives in factory farms, where they were painfully debeaked and detoed, confined to crowded pens with hundreds, even thousands, of other birds. Turkeys bred to be food grow too large too fast, such that their bulk is more than their legs to carry; birds who cannot stand fall and are trampled by penmates. When turkeys are big enough to die, no U.S. welfare law protects them from cruel treatment during catching, transport, or slaughter.

We’re eager to believe that turkeys are the self-sacrificial morons of the animal world, gullibly gobble-gobbling to their deaths. But turkeys are not content to go gentle into that good oven. They would prefer, like any of us, to live. This year, why not make compassion a tradition and eat something else? We have so much to be thankful for – including the many, many tasty foods that are not the basted carcasses of tortured birds.

Aurora Linnea

Portland