Commentary: Happy Thanksgiving! (Pass the turkey)

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This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for a lot of things. First, for my wife and family. Second, for the turkey, the cornbread, the cranberry sauce, and the mashed potatoes. And last but not least, for the guy who made the couch I’m going to snooze on immediately after dinner.

But more importantly, I’m thankful for people in agriculture who are responsible for producing the food that the rest of us enjoy. They’re under-thanked — and attacked — practically every day of the year.

There are organic zealots, who think crop biotechnology is killing people. There are environmentalists, who think farms are killing the planet. And there are animal rights radicals, who think you’re a savage for not replacing turkey farms with soybean fields — and you’re killing people and the planet.

It’s hard to figure who’s the most joyless of the bunch. Whatever happened to simply giving thanks?

They’re up to their usual Thanksgiving tricks. Every year we can expect the usual worrywart activist message. The “food police” fret about artery-clogging gravy and drumsticks. The hyper-organic types worry that the cornbread might contain GMOs.

But the animal rights activists take the (egg-free) cake. PETA once again has a billboard targeting kids that compares eating turkey to eating a dog. Meanwhile, HSUS moans, “Thanksgiving is hardly a time at which most turkeys can be grateful.”

What’s Thanksgiving like at an HSUS or PETA household? I can only imagine something along the lines of a glum teenager poking at the vegetables on his plate. Perhaps that smug niece who gives you lentil stew with a side of smarmy lecture. And a fair share of hexane-extracted soy powder.

Not surprisingly, HSUS doesn’t endorse a single turkey product — even from those “humane” farms they say they like. In fact, the only food product bearing the logo of the Humane Society of the United States is Tofurky. The “humane” Thanksgiving recipes on HSUS’s website call for unsalted vegan “margarine,” vegan cream “cheese,” and vegan whipping “cream.” (See a pattern?)

And last year HSUS gave a “kind teacher” award to a woman whose lesson plan included turkeys being invited to Thanksgiving dinner “rather than becoming dinner.”

Uh, sure. Most of us have enough trouble making small talk with the in-laws. If animal rights activists had been in charge of cooking for the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims would have fled back to England.

Perhaps farmers have simply been too good at doing their jobs. Back in the days of the Pilgrims, everybody had to work to eat and food was scarce. Today, things are more plentiful than ever and consumers have a wide array of choices.

That luxury has also led to so-called “first world problems” — like the ability of an elitist minority to wring their hands over whether that turkey on the table was raised locally, organically, and given a name and an iPad.

Maybe if the folks at PETA and HSUS thought about it that way, they themselves would be thankful for once. But instead of reflecting on what it means to have choices—and a population of ag folks ready to provide choices to them — odds are they’re already preparing their next act: Complaining about Christmas hams.

In a way, complaining and bickering about an American holiday shows how disconnected activists are from the average family. Take heart in the fact that the average farmer now feeds 155 people. That’s a whole lot of families who are relying on the ag industry, and who are — in a much quieter way than the activists — giving thanks when they are sitting at the table.

Rick Berman is the Executive Director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies and consumers to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.


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