Regulars and Shorts

Animals Animals: 10th Annual Thanksgiving for the Animals

By Amy Brunvand

The turkeys eat first at Ching Farm

Thanksgiving at Ching Farm fosters a sense of celebration each year, but on this farm the tables are turned – instead of humans consuming animals, the animals are the guests of honor.

animals This year marks the 10th anniversary of Ching Farm’s Thanksgiving for the Animals. The animals on the farm feast on all the Thanksgiving trimmings thanks to a community of volunteers, sponsors, friends and family who appreciate the individuality and emotional capacity of farm animals.

This year’s Thanksgiving for the Animals, November 11, is made possible by a generous donation from Wild Oats Market. With the donated food, the farm’s volunteers will gather in the morning to prepare an elaborate feast for the animals. They will make seasonal favorites such as stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies, as well as fruit salad and vegetables. By noon, they will begin serving food – starting with the farm’s 10 turkeys, of course! The feasting continues all afternoon with every animal receiving a full plate of food… and seconds if desired.

Although the event is festive and light-hearted, there is a serious underlying message. The Chings want to raise awareness of the cruel and unnecessary methods of factory turkey farming. Faith Ching says that somewhere around 70 million turkeys are consumed by Americans each holiday season. Turkeys raised for slaughter in the US are typically crowded by the thousands into huge warehouses where each gets less than three square feet of space. Overcrowding drives the birds to excessive pecking and fighting. To reduce injuries, the factory farmers cut off the ends of their beaks and toes. These painful mutilations are performed without anesthesia and can be fatal.

Farmed turkeys have been bred to grow twice as fast and twice as large as their ancestors. Although this rapid growth poses a serious threat to the animals’ health and welfare, the turkey industry continues pushing to grow bigger birds. Overweight turkeys have difficulty supporting their unwieldy bodies because their skeletons haven’t grown at the same pace. The birds must awkwardly bow their legs to support excessively large torsos.

Ching introduces me to Petunia, a rescued factory turkey who now has a happy life on the farm. Standing alongside the normal turkeys, Petunia looks horribly disproportioned.

Petunia is an extra special turkey and on this day, to commemorate her presence on the farm, she is served before any of the other animals on a special turkey-sized table set just for her. After the ceremonial serving of Petunia, all the other animals – every pig, llama, chicken, donkey, emu, horse and duck – get their meals. The goats don’t like waiting in turn, so their holiday fare is tossed to the group like a glorious vegetable shower.

I sponsor two senior pot-bellied pigs at the sanctuary, Boris and Buddy, and  last Thanksgiving the Chings asked me to serve their holiday meal. I piled the plate with vegan stuffing, rolls, fruit salad and a hefty slice of vegan pumpkin pie, and set off to serve my hog beneficiaries. I must say, the dish resembled the holiday meal I serve my own family. As I entered their retirement shed, the two 150-lb. pigs grunted at me – being nearly blind, they are a bit leery of visitors – but when they smelled plates overflowing with food, trust immediately ensued. In true swine fashion, they gobbled down their meal in record time, so I headed back to prepare seconds. When I returned to the shed with another offering, the two laden pigs were basking in the sun.

The animal feast is just one event the Chings put on for the Thanks-giving holiday. They also have a vegan Thanksgiving feast for humans. “The stuffing and pies we make for the humans are the same recipes we use for the animals,” says Faith.

Whether feeding the animals or feeding yourself, the Chings offer wonderful ways to celebrate the animals and look forward to another fruitful year. The humans can meet for Vegan Thanksgiving, an annual fundraiser, on November 12 at the Sugar House Garden Center, 1602 E. 2100 South. The event is catered and seating is limited, so it’s best to arrive when the doors open at 4 p.m. Dinner begins at 5 p.m. There will also be a silent auction to raise additional funds for the farm.

For more information or to donate to Ching Farm, visit their Web site

This article was originally published on November 20, 2006.