Joaquin Phoenix wants Americans to leave turkey off the table this Thanksgiving, and instead, choose vegan alternatives. The actor and activist has joined up with People of the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to provide a voiceover for a video exposé on one of the US’ leading turkey suppliers, Plainville Farms.
Most people who celebrate Thanksgiving do so by eating a big holiday meal with their loved ones. The table is often filled with casseroles, roast vegetables, gravy, stuffing, and, of course, turkey. Roughly 88 percent of Americans choose to eat turkey on Thanksgiving every year, according to the National Turkey Federation.
But Phoenix, who has been vegan since the age of three and is a vocal animal advocate, wants this to change. Alongside PETA, the actor notes that turkeys are abused in the meat industry. The video he narrates shows Plainville Farms workers kicking, stomping on, and beating the birds with a heavy metal rod.
“They threw hens like they were basketballs,” says Phoenix. “After failing to break their necks, they left the birds to convulse and die in agony. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, stop paying someone to hurt animals for your Thanksgiving centerpiece. Choose a vegan roast so that everyone can have something to be thankful for this holiday season.”
The life of a turkey on a factory farm
According to PETA, Plainville Farms, which describes itself as a “humane” turkey supplier, has been charged with a record-breaking 141 counts of cruelty to animals.
But it’s important to note that even on factory farms where birds aren’t kicked or beaten, the conditions are still less than favorable. Most birds are raised in cramped, industrialized factory farm conditions, where they have little more room than the size of an A4 piece of paper to move around.
And, regardless of where they are raised, all turkeys in the meat industry will be slaughtered well before they reach the end of their natural lifespan. If cared for well, a domestic turkey can live around a decade. But on a factory farm, they are unlikely to live longer than 21 weeks.
“During their short lives, they are typically forced to stand in their own waste and are bred to grow so large so quickly that their legs give out,” claims PETA. “At slaughterhouses, workers hang the young birds upside down, drag them through an electrified bath, slit their throats, and dump them into scalding-hot de-feathering tanks—often while they’re still conscious.”
In the lead-up to Thanksgiving, it’s estimated that more than 46 million turkeys will be slaughtered for the holiday table.
Go turkey-free this Thanksgiving
There are many ways to embrace a vegan centerpiece that doesn’t fund cruelty to turkeys. For ideas, follow our guide to 14 vegan Thanksgiving roasts, for example.
PETA is urging people to engage in its ThanksVegan initiative this year, by leaving animals off their holiday plate. “ThanksVegan is a day when compassionate people feast on meat-free roasts, mashed potatoes made with dairy-free milk and vegan butter, stuffing, and green bean casserole made with savory vegan broth, and vegan pumpkin pie topped with 100% plant-based whipped cream,” notes the animal-rights organization.
“It’s a day to enjoy all the traditional Thanksgiving staples that we know and love—without contributing to the suffering that comes with raising and killing animals for food,” it continues.
Phoenix has worked with PETA on a number of occasions to promote animal activism and raise awareness of abuse. In January 2023, he lent his voice to a PETA Asia investigation exposing the down trade. “The only way to end this cruelty and spare ducks is to stop buying items that contain feathers,” he said. And this is not the first time that he has urged people to stop eating turkey at Thanksgiving. In 2020, the actor teamed up with Farm Sanctuary to promote the Turkey-Free Pledge.
“I object to animal cruelty, environmental destruction, the exploitation of slaughterhouse workers, and the deep wounds inflicted upon rural communities by the factory farming industry,” the Farm Sanctuary pledge stated. “As such, I will join Farm Sanctuary in celebrating a compassionate Thanksgiving by leaving turkey off my dinner plate.”
Other actors who signed the pledge included Phoenix’s wife and fellow actor and activist Rooney Mara, as well as Edie Falco, Alan Cumming, Daisy Fuentes, and many more celebrities. Stranger Things star Sadie Sink took things one step further by adopting a turkey from Farm Sanctuary.
“I hope that this holiday season, instead of supporting this destructive factory farming industry, I hope you guys will join me in celebrating the lives of turkeys by adopting (Farm Sanctuary rescues) Jackie, Sandy, Tutu, Ferris, or Venus,” she said at the time.