A Compassionate Thanksgiving Dinner at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

By Susan Sedlazek — November 27, 2012

Seats fill up quickly at the annual vegan Thanksgiving dinner at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, but at this meal, no one eats until the turkeys are fed. Attendance at this year’s Thanksgiving WITH the Turkeys in Poolesville, Maryland easily approaches 1,000 human guests, in addition to the 200 rescued animals who make their home at the 400-acre farm about an hour’s drive from Washington, DC.

As the turkeys and chickens gobble up the melons and other fruit that have been laid out for them on tabletops, sanctuary founder Terry Cummings narrates the scene with short biographies of the birds appearing in the barnyard. For people who have never been to the event, it’s an educational experience as well as a celebration. Terry takes time to point out the difference in size between the genetically modified turkeys that had been bred for food and the smaller and nimbler wild turkeys. When the stories are over, she concludes her remarks by encouraging everyone to help grow the tradition of a compassionate vegan Thanksgiving.

Several turkeys venture up the hill to join their human guests, whose plates are piled with colorful guilt-free dishes featuring the usual vegan staples – chickpeas, quinoa, and kale – as well as an assortment of traditional Thanksgiving favorites like mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing and cranberry dishes. And yes, there is pumpkin pie. And cookies. And cupcakes.  And just about any other mouthwatering sweet treat you can imagine. Despite what you may have heard about people adopting plant-based diets for health reasons, vegans in these parts are known for loving their desserts.

After the tables are cleared and everything has been sorted among the bins for recyclables, food scraps and trash (veterans bring their own plates and silverware), people gather the decorative pumpkins from the makeshift dining area and carry them across the yard to feed the pigs. Terry’s husband, Dave Hoerauf, leads the countdown for the synchronized pumpkin toss at precisely three-o-clock. “Three…two…one!” he shouts, as pumpkins rain down into the pig yard, drawing the attention of more than a dozen large and hungry pigs. In a blur of orange gourds and tan snouts, the animals devour one pumpkin after another quicker than you can say “when pigs fly.” In less than 10 minutes, it’s over, and so there remains just one more time-honored tradition to wrap up the day’s festivities: the post-dinner nap.

Check out our Facebook album for more photos about the event!

 Courtesy Images: Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

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