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How to ensure an animal-friendly Thanksgiving

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is just around the corner! This day truly is one of my favorite holidays, even though I gave up eating meat decades ago. That’s because Thanksgiving really isn’t about a specific menu; the day represents enjoying the company of friends, family and loved ones. But how can we celebrate animals next week when we are surrounded by well-intentioned meat-eaters? Here are a few tips to help you not just survive the day, but even enjoy it (and make it as animal-friendly as possible):

1. Show off your bounty. If you are the one hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, lucky you! Move over, Tofurkey: There are so many wonderful options for a Thanksgiving feast, how does one choose? This article rounds up awesome recipes, such as Squash and Apple Puree (which looks delish!) and Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Chimichurri and Almonds. Oh She Glows, one of my favorite sites, shares a whole host of inspiring dishes, including Crispy Smashed Potatoes With Avocado Garlic Aioli and Gooey Pumpkin Spice Latte Pudding Cake. And don’t miss One Green Planet’s “25 Soups, Salads and Starters for Your Vegan Thanksgiving.” (The Buffalo Sweet Potato Stuffed Mushrooms look amazing!) Of course, if cooking’s not your thing, consider catering a few courses from Whole Foods or your local vegetarian restaurant. I promise you: No one is even going to miss the meat.

2. Develop new traditions. If someone else in your family usually hosts a “traditional” Thanksgiving and they’re doing it this year, too, offer to host everyone next year so you can celebrate a beautiful, animal-friendly day full of vegan and vegetarian options (see #1, above). Thanksgiving dinner is so much work—from shopping to prepping to cooking—that you may be surprised: They may thank you for the opportunity to take the day “off” next time.

3. Keep the lines of communication open. If everyone goes to Aunt Millie’s every year (and this year is no different), make sure to have a friendly conversation in advance so you can ensure you don’t go home hungry. Offer to prepare one or two vegetarian options that everyone can enjoy; she will probably love the help and tasty additional dishes! If you’re still worried, pack a small lunchbox filled with simple sides that are easy to heat up and enjoy. I’m making these recipes this year to bring to my mom’s for everyone to try: Coconut Mashed Yams With Currants, Harvest Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms and Pumpkin Rice Pudding. (I will make a vegan version using almond milk.)

4. Save a turkey. You can “adopt a turkey” this Thanksgiving to offset the bleak side of this American tradition, thanks to Gene Baur’s Farm Sanctuary. Since 1986, the organization has worked tremendously hard to save these friendly and intelligent creatures, who love getting pets from humans. Here’s a beautiful video of the Farm Sanctuary turkeys, who are honored guests at the table each Thanksgiving:

5. Show compassion. Vegetarians are still the minority in this country (only 5 percent of the population), and 45 million turkeys are slaughtered every year to adorn Americans’ celebratory Thanksgiving plates. Still, we can use this day to be thankful for our blessings and show compassion not only to animals but to humans, too. Let’s find common ground in gratitude with our meat-eating friends, and showcase our compassionate choices by our example, with patience and an open heart, which makes a very powerful and inspiring statement to those around us. Sometimes our actions are even more powerful than our words. Let’s build common ground where we can, and realize each person is on his own journey—and may arrive to a new viewpoint about animals someday, too.

What are your best tips for an animal-friendly Thanksgiving?

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