Every year on Thanksgiving, approximately 46 million turkeys wind up braised, brined or bored with a beer can. But for a rafter of lucky turkeys this November, the tables have turned. Since 1986, Farm Sanctuary, an organization that “protect[s] farm animals from cruelty” and “promote[s] compassionate vegan living,” has organized the annual Adopt a Turkey Project, through which sponsors can donate $30 to support one of the turkeys that live at their animal sanctuaries.
Through the project, Farm Sanctuary aims not only to rescue the creatures from their deadliest time of year, but also to raise awareness about the conditions many turkeys face in factory farming environments—overcrowding, disease, rampant weight gain and slaughter at any early age. Though the concept of adoption in this case is more of a symbolic one—the turkeys remain on the farms where they live—a more extensive application process allows some turkey lovers to actually adopt the fowl and bring it home.
The project, which saw 8,000 sponsorships in 2014, counts among its supporters celebrities like Jesse Eisenberg and Jon Stewart and his wife Tracey Stewart, an advocate for animals. The couple recently announced that they will convert their New Jersey farm into a sanctuary for animals.
Turkeys have gotten some negative press in recent years—a trio of Boston-area turkeys attacked several children and forced mail carriers off their routes in 2013, and Gawker once compiled a top ten list of turkey attack videos—but Farm Sanctuary promotes a different message, insisting that the birds are “complex, sensitive, social, and loving creatures.” Christina, for example, one of the turkeys available for adoption this year, is “bold and bossy,” while Pamela is “curious and sweet,” with a weakness for grapes and blueberries.
This year, as in years past, turkeys sponsored through the project will enjoy their own Thanksgiving dinner, during which they will feast on pumpkin pie, squash and cranberries. So for one day, at least, the eaten become the eaters.