“BEATRICE IS A SPECIAL GIRL WHO I CONSIDER A CLOSE FRIEND,” is how Jenny Brown, the graceful co-founder of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, describes one lucky turkey. “She knows me and comes to me when I call her name.” Beatrice (pictured above) was once destined for slaughter. Her abnormally short beak is a reminder of her factory farm beginnings. Debeaking and detoeing are standard procedures on commercial turkeys, performed without anesthetic soon after birth (intended to prevent overcrowded and stressed birds from pecking and injuring each other.) Today, Beatrice is a resident at the sanctuary, along with six other rescued turkeys—each one entirely unique in character and disposition. “They are really interested in people and are pretty uninhibited in general, although in varying degrees,” Jenny tells us. “Some are incredibly charismatic, while others are a bit reserved. Some, like little Marley, love human affection and attention. She loves to jump up on a bench and snuggle against your legs while gazing at you lovingly. She, like others, LOVES having her feathers stroked or her butt scratched—an area they can’t reach! One of the girls, Tomoko, who is named after one of our favorite volunteers, is ridiculously playful and always underfoot, getting into everything. She’s kind of the trouble-maker.”
Yet despite turkeys sharing behavioral and personality traits not just with our companion animals, but with ourselves—46 million are killed every Thanksgiving, and 300 million are killed annually. Forcibly bred and genetically altered to grow to 30 lbs by just 15 weeks of age, they endure crippling deformities and severe health problems during their short lives. Multiple undercover investigations reveal sadistic abuses on both factory and “free-range” farms. Over 20 million turkeys die prior to slaughter from the conditions on these farms alone. Not protected by the Humane Slaughter Act (which mandates that animals must be insensible to pain before they are killed), turkeys often suffer through especially horrific deaths. As more and more of these facts emerge thanks to the information age, people are beginning to question their choices. “We live in a developed country with a population that doesn’t need to eat animals for our survival or health, so we only do so for sake of taste, convenience, habit and tradition,” says Jenny. “And finally people are starting to ask are these good enough reasons?”
For the past nine years, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary has been giving people an irrefutable reason to rethink tradition with its ThanksLiving event. Held in October on sanctuary grounds, the gourmet sit-down vegan banquet sets the tone for the holidays, and provides a hopeful glimpse into a future where animals are treated with dignity and respect. Before guests sit down to eat, the turkeys are served a special meal of their own, “which they devour along with relishing all the attention,” Jenny says. Its growing popularity (this year’s event sold out in less than 12 hours, with a waiting list of 250 people) could very well be an indicator of a shift in collective consciousness. Many of the guests drawn to this unique experience are not yet vegan, and they walk away changed. “To be at a place where animals are friends, not food; where they have names, not numbers—in a compassionate and peaceful setting, while eating a fabulous animal-product-free meal can be transformative,” explains Jenny. This year’s feast was prepared by Philadelphia’s Chef Rachel Klein and her team at Miss Rachel’s Pantry—who we profiled in our Second Issue. Here, we share two exclusives recipes from the event’s menu, helping you bring some of that ThanksLiving spirit home. And read on for time-saving meal ideas from NOOCH Vegan Market in Denver, followed by more insights from Jenny Brown, along with advocacy tips from New York City-based vegan psychotherapist April Lang and Dartmouth College activist Laura Bergsten.
Sweet Potato Bisque
Makes about 8 cups
3½ cups peeled and cubed sweet potato
1/4 cup peeled and chopped carrots
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup diced onion
1½ cups coconut milk (full fat)
3½ cups water
1½ tsp sea salt
Put all ingredients in a pot; bring to a boil, then simmer until the sweets are tender. You can then allow the mixture to cool a bit and transfer to blender and puree until smooth, or use an immersion blender to create similar results. If the soup is very thick, you may want to add 1/4 cup more water, or so.
We topped ours with shallots that were cooked in olive oil with rosemary and sea salt, and a little smoked coconut.
Brussels Sprouts Salad
Makes about 8 servings
for the salad:
2 cups of whole Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup shredded cabbage (use green! purple will bleed)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
optional 1/2 cup diced avocado
for the dressing:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup water
a few pinches of sea salt and pepper, to taste (about 1/2 tsp each)
Slice all of the stems off the Brussels sprouts. Set each sprout cut side down on your cutting board (make sure the cut surface is flat so that the sprouts don’t roll around!) and thinly slice/shave them with a sharp knife. You can also cut the stems off and put the Brussels sprouts through a slicer blade in your food processor (saves a little time!). Toss the Brussels, cabbage, cranberries and avocado together in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Pour the dressing over the salad, mix thoroughly, and allow to stand at least a half hour before serving. This recipe is actually a great make-ahead dish. It tastes best when it’s had a night in the refrigerator to marinate.
Short on time? We asked our friends Joshua LaBure and Vanessa Gochnour of the Denver-based NOOCH, a thoughtfully-curated vegan market, to put together a shopping list of tasty party items that require minimum prep.
 Field Roast Celebration Roast. “This one is fantastic, not only on the holidays, but year-round! Rub with a salt and herb mix before roasting and enjoy the amazingly delicious crust that will happen!”  Vtopian Chive & Dill Cheese. “So creamy and bursting with flavor from the dill, it would make any omni happy at your dinner party.”  Tofurky Roast. “The one that started it all 20 years ago. It’s a classic, and we absolutely love it (especially teamed up with their giblet gravy.) Save some for the next day, and make leftover Tofurky sandwiches.”  Tartex Vegan Pâté. “Vegan pâté! That’s all we really have to say about this. You either love it, or you hate it. We love it.”  Edward & Sons Toasted Onion Brown Rice Snaps. “These crackers have the perfect crunch and just the right amount of flavor to compliment your vegan cheese plate.”  Punk Rawk Labs Smoked Cashew Cheese. “This cheese is cashew-based, raw, rich, and features smoked sea salt and a pepper crust. This was the first vegan “fancy” cheese that we ever tried, and it’s still our absolute favorite. Last year, we brought some to a dinner party and our vegetarian friend—a self proclaimed “cheese lover” and skeptic of vegan cheeses—flipped out over how tasty it was. The next day she was at NOOCH buying herself a tin!” These items are stocked at NOOCH, and can also be found at your local health food store, supermarket, or online.
Prefer not to cook, but still want a gourmet experience? You can order entire meals from your local vegan eatery or catering company, or simply head out to a restaurant—many offer holiday prix fixe menus. Denver’s Watercourse Foods makes a variety of dishes like hand-made holiday seitan roasts, which can be picked up right at NOOCH. Some delicious options in other cities include:
• Whole pies from NYC’s Pure Food and Wine. Their new Banana Dulce de Leche Pie looks especially tantalizing.
• Full Thanksgiving dinners from NYC’s The Nourishing Vegan. Chef Jenné Claiborne will prepare sumtuous dishes like Lentil Loaf, Butternut Squash Stuffing, and Sweet Potato Pie.
• In Los Angeles, the vegan mainstay Real Food Daily is providing their organic Thanksgiving To-Go menu for the 21st year in a row. Choose from an array of traditional dishes like Corn Sage Stuffing, Rusted Root Vegetables, and Deep Dish Pumpkin Pie.
Order by noon Tuesday, November 25th with all of these establishments for Thanksgiving. And be sure to check back with them in December for their other holiday menus.
• Or head out and celebrate in style at LA’s Crossroads, which is hosting a four course Thanksgiving dinner 12-5pm on November 27th.
As easy as it is to have a cruelty-free, abundant, and delicious Thanksgiving dinner—or any other celebration—the holidays can be a source of stress and anxiety for many vegans and vegetarians, because of the challenges of communicating the message of compassion to friends and family. Fear is often the culprit in missed opportunities to speak up. But as psychotherapist April Lang explained to us, there is a solution. “It is possible to get past this fear by taking two steps, one mental and one experiential,” she says. “The first step is to acknowledge that the fear could be unfounded. Maybe this is a subject matter where you won’t be shut down. The second step is to test this theory, a little at a time. Tell your family something about your experience with veganism that is positive or, if you want to begin with facts more harrowing, disclose only a smidgen. Then gauge the response. If they seem open to your words, then take a moment to acknowledge that you’ve confronted your fear and are still left standing! Now you can build on this achievement by incrementally disclosing more and more.” And don’t be discouraged if met with resistance. Simply refocus your efforts to those who appear more responsive, tailoring your activism to the person you’re speaking with. Eager to finally enjoy a vegan celebration with your family? April recommends letting them know how much you love spending time with them and that this year you’d like to try something a bit different—“a Thanksgiving dinner filled with familiar fare, but prepared in new and exciting ways,” she says. Then, get them involved with the planning and the cooking. “This will likely get them invested in the event and will give you an opportunity, as you’re all cooking, to explain why you follow a vegan lifestyle,” says April. “It will also expose them to foods and food preparation they might never have considered.”
For vegan college students, coming home for the holidays can be a complex experience. At Darmouth College, Laura Bergstein—who was one of the activists featured in our Premier Issue’s “The Youth” story—heads DAWG (Dartmouth Animal Welfare Group). One of the group’s goals is to “encourage students to think deeply about their choices, especially during the holidays when we all tend to do things in excess,” Laura explains. Animal rights groups on campus offer a much-needed sense of community to vegan college students, who may feel otherwise in the minority. Connecting with others who share your values and commitments fosters confidence and courage in speaking up for animals—especially handy during family gatherings. And with social media, it’s easier than ever to forge these kinds of connections. “Being around other vegetarians and vegans allows me to feel at ease in my choices, and they always support and inspire me to be better,” says Laura.
Jenny Brown encourages being empathetic towards your loved ones, but also honest. “I have vivid (and shameful) memories of my sister and I fighting over the wishbone, and so I always keep in mind that I used to be one of them,” she says. “And that’s my basic approach, to say I came from the same place, but as some point I opened up my heart and mind to the reality of the great injustice to animals—all animals. I tell them the truth; that I was haunted by images of these innocent beings suffering, and I just wanted no part of it.” And of course, applying the same strategy as ThanksLiving can go a long way. “Coming armed with some really good, substantial dishes and the obligatory desserts, too, are a great way to further some vegan diplomacy,” says Jenny. “Think of them as closeted vegans. Your goal is to help them get out.”
by Julie Gueraseva • Photos of Beatrice and Jenny Brown courtesy of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary • Photos of ThanksLiving dishes by Julie Gueraseva