Like many Americans, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s warm, cheerful and brings loved ones together to cherish all that we’re grateful for. There’s no other holiday like it!

Last year, I added a new tradition to my Thanksgiving ritual and celebrated the symbolic birds of Thanksgiving — the turkeys. Accompanied by two animal-advocating friends, I attended the “Thanksgiving for the Turkeys” event at Pasado’s Safe Haven, an animal sanctuary just 25 miles northeast from Seattle. My friends and I were enchanted by this event, where we enjoyed a short tour, bid on silent auction items, were spoiled by delectable fare and (the best part), fed and mingled with the turkeys!

Thanksgiving for the Turkeys 2016

On Saturday, Nov. 12, Pasado’s Safe Haven will hold its annual “Thanksgiving for the Turkeys” event, where Seattle-area animal admirers will be treated to a tour of the sanctuary, a scrumptious plant-based feast, and a chance to feed and get to see Pasado’s resident turkeys up close. Many people don’t realize the harsh conditions animals on factory farms endure, but the turkeys at Pasado’s are happy, healthy and extra thankful to meet and greet the compassionate visitors.  

Laura Henderson is the executive director for Pasado’s Safe Haven and has led the organization for the past three and a half years. Through her work to help save the animals from inhumane factory farm conditions, she has seen some of the worst cases of abuse. That’s why this event is so important. While millions of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving by eating turkey, most would be surprised to see the conditions those birds were raised in.  

“We want to show people a compassionate way to celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving,” Henderson told me. What better way to celebrate than with turkeys?

The sanctuary’s Thanksgiving fundraiser not only offers an opportunity to taste new dishes and meet the famous feathered stars, but also asks us to think about where our food comes from.

“We encourage people to think about what it is that they are celebrating,” Henderson said.

In my home, I’m looking forward to celebrating a long life with my loved ones by feasting on healthy squash and green bean casseroles, and plant-based roasts drenched in mushroom gravy.  

Meet the turkeys

Five fortunate turkeys live at Pasado’s along with over 200 other furry and feathered friends. Like many of the animals at the sanctuary, the turkeys were rescued from neglectful situations either from the factory farming industry or individual cruelty cases. But, after medical treatment and lots of loving care from an army of compassionate staff and volunteers, the turkeys are happy and available for adoption.

The “Thanksgiving for the Turkeys” event at Pasado’s provides a wonderful chance to see domestic turkeys up close, in an environment where they are loved and happy. When not confined to windowless sheds where they’re typically kept for food production, turkeys are loving and have colorful personalities.

“For anyone who’s never met a turkey, this is a great opportunity to meet and experience them for yourself,” Henderson said.

What’s on the menu

If you’re wondering about the food, prepare to be delighted. The mouthwatering plant-based menu will leave you full and satisfied. “Thanksgiving for the Turkeys” will be catered by Sam’s Plant Based Kitchen in Seattle. Owner Sam Tate will serve up a four-course meal including succulent dishes like maple seared shiitake mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and tempeh with creamy seasonal greens and hazelnut crusted Portobello, and an apple tart with sage ice cream. What a perfect way to introduce your family and friends to a delicious plant-based meal.

As Henderson points out, “A growing number of college and high school students are going vegan, so the other great thing is it can inspire people to make easy swaps to traditional recipes.”

Tate is excited to share his culinary creations with the guests of the event. Cooking plant-based meals to benefit rescued animals at Pasado’s is his way of contributing to helping make the world a better place and to show people how to eat healthier for themselves and the animals. Through his plant-based cooking business, Tate says he can, “show people a more compassionate way to eat.”

Other opportunities

If you can’t make it to “Thanksgiving for the Turkeys,” there are several other opportunities to meet the turkeys and their fortunate farm friends. Pasado’s offers sanctuary tours every other month to the public, along with frequent themed fundraisers and events. Please visit pasadosafehaven.org for more information.   

Making small changes to your meals can have big impacts on animals. We can all do our part to practice compassionate eating by following The Humane Society of the United States’ Three Rs: “reducing” or “replacing” consumption of animal products with plant-based alternatives, and “refining” our diets by choosing products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards. Thanksgiving is a nice place to start. One way is to consider leaving the turkey off your table and celebrating this Thanksgiving with plant-based favorites like savory vegetable casserole and squash and chestnut soup with caramelized pears. These delectable dishes can be found at humanesociety.org/mm/recipes along with hundreds of other appetizing recipes. Hope to see you at “Thanksgiving for the Turkeys!”