Thanksgiving is the holiday that embodies all the pastimes of the U.S. We overeat, we drink, we watch football and we eat turkey. Fortunately the holiday has already been drained of all of its religious affiliations. The overeating is fine, football is okay if we get rid of head injuries and alcohol only hurts the consumer — but we need to give up the turkey.

If all goes according to plan, President Barack Obama will pardon a turkey around Thanksgiving. But this practice shouldn’t be reserved for the White House. About 45 million turkeys are killed every year for Thanksgiving Day alone (billions of animals are killed in the U.S. each year for human consumption). These are statistics that are shocking and each person can reduce them by abstaining from eating meat.

For the majority, humans are speciest: that is, they value a certain species (human) more than other species for no legitimate reason. It’s a morally deficient belief that’s just as unfounded as valuing men more than women or whites more than blacks. Genetic differentiation isn’t a basis for different treatment.

Higher intelligence is often cited as a reason that people value humans more than other animals. But this is only calculated when humans compare ourselves to other species. It’s therefore speciest. Intelligence gaps have no distinction among different humans. Mentally disabled people have the same rights as those with extreme intelligence — and this is surely the moral way to conduct our society. So why do we make exceptions for animals?

Another argument could be that animals’ cognitive function is so low that they don’t deserve our consideration. Yet, our society extends rights to those without much cognition. Babies deserve equal rights and protection just as much as adults. Totally mentally deficient in every capacity imaginable, a baby of six months receives protection equal to a full grown adult. Certain apes have been able to learn sign language, yet their protections are insignificant compared to the protections of a human baby.

To argue that animals are somehow below our consideration and without rights is to deny instinctual responses humans have to the violations of these rights. The football world and the public in general decried Michael Vick for his dog fighting ring because it clearly violated the rights that humans believe animals to have. Though the word “rights” may not be transferrable to animals because the definition has taken on such an intrinsic association with humans, desire is something humans can recognize and acknowledge within animals.

These desires are ones like the desire to live or be free from pain. To what extent is it acceptable to violate these desires? If you kick a human or an animal, they will react in much the same way. Is physical pain worse for an intelligent animal (humans) or is it equal to that of turkeys?

The factory farm is a terrible place. Even if animals are killed quickly (which they are often not), their lives are miserable. Animals are confined to extremely small spaces, don’t get to reproduce and aren’t reared by their mothers. They are then sent off to be slaughtered. These “lives,” in some sick sense of charity, are also very brief. Turkeys have a natural lifespan of up to 10 years but they are typically slaughtered when they are five months old.

The suffering of animals is lamentable — but there are some instances in which it can be condoned. Scientific research may cause harm and injury to animals, but there may be great payoffs for the result. Eating animals, on the other hand, provides such an insignificant benefit to humanity. Especially to citizens of first-world nations, eating animals provides no other function other than supplying a specific taste for our palates. The American Dietetic Association says that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”

In early 2009, Scientific American reported on a study from The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and said the “report found that current production levels of meat contribute between 14 and 22 percent of the 36 billion tons of ‘CO2-equivalent’ greenhouse gases the world produces every year.” 14 to 22 percent of greenhouse gases come from the meat industry.

If anything, eating animals has considerable drawbacks, Yet, humans consume them to achieve a minor palatal satisfaction. Is this passing pleasure worth the immense pain and suffering of animals, environmental damage and damage to our health?

This Thanksgiving, drink beer, watch the mediocre concerts on TV and even overeat, but please skip the turkey. And make sure you tell everyone why.

Teddy Papes is an LSA junior.

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