Essay about Negotiating Thanksgiving: An Animal Rights Perspective

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For every vegetarian or vegan, Thanksgiving is a logistical and emotional minefield. Of course, the centerpiece of the traditional American meal is the turkey, and quite often older relatives, especially relatives whose identity revolves around their cooking like my grandmother, feel hurt and offended if vegetarians do not partake of their cooking. In past years, I tried a number of strategies to hold true to my beliefs about living a cruelty-free existence, while still treating my meat-eating relatives with respect. My first strategy was to suffer in silence, and try to eat as little as possible, focusing on the non-meat entrees. However, this presented several difficulties: firstly, many of the side dishes were cooked with meat…show more content…
This year, I decided to talk with my grandmother about the issue. She always hosts the event and I knew that my veganism caused her a great deal of angst. I wanted a chance to discuss this important part of my identity rationally with her, in a context far away from the dinner table where her own identity as a cook and provider for the family might be threatened. The pre-negotiation process involved my explaining to my grandmother that I wanted to honor her on Thanksgiving and make a contribution to the meal, so I could feel fully a part of the event. Both of us had a need to feel affirmed as family members, and had a mutual stake in avoiding tensions during the family meal. We set a time, and agreed to talk about what she would be serving. She opened the negotiation by saying that she did not understand why I could not eat what everyone else was eating, because Thanksgiving came only once a year. I pointed out that vegetarianism is not like being on a diet, where you ‘cheat’ every now and then. I do not like to consume animals, and do not regard my eating habits as an act of self-denial. I said I wanted to cook and share some of the foods that I liked with the rest of the family. This would be a way to show everyone that vegetarian food could be tasty. However, because my grandmother would be cooking turkey and other meat-based items, they could sample my vegetarian and vegan food in addition to her food. This

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