US President Joe Biden has tried to calm fears regarding food shortages as the country gears up for the annual Thanksgiving festival. Supply chain issues, low inventory and labor shortages have jacked up food prices and caused a food shortage in USA, where many people, businesses and industries are still struggling to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
There have been multiple reports advising people to visit grocery stores at the earliest to stock up on staple items – turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing etc – for the Thanksgiving dinner which falls on the fourth Thursday in November.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the cost of all food is up 5% from last year, with turkeys skyrocketing nearly 70% since 2019. And its not just food prices that are up. The US consumer price index, which includes products ranging from rent to healthcare to groceries and gas, rose 6.2% from the last year — the largest increase since December of 1990.
Why is Thanksgiving celebrated?
In American culture, Thanksgiving is regarded as the beginning of the fall–winter holiday season, which includes Christmas and the New Year. It originated as a harvest festival, and the centerpiece of Thanksgiving celebrations remains Thanksgiving dinner consisting of foods and dishes indigenous to the Americas.
The “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621 after their first harvest in the ‘New World’ – the name given to the two American continents after Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ them. The Pligrims were English settlers, led by Christian Puritans, who had fled to Holland to escape religious persecution in Britain and then decided to settle in America.
While most Americans today consider Thanksgiving a time for the family to gather around a feast and be thankful for the year that had passed and be hopeful for the year to come, the true history of the festival is dark and a reminder of genocide that Native Americans suffered at the hands of English and other European settlers.
As this NYT write-up tells us –
The first Thanksgiving was a three-day feast to which the Pilgrims had invited the local Wampanoag people as a celebration of the harvest. About 90 came, almost twice the number of Pilgrims. This is the first myth: that the first Thanksgiving was dominated by the Pilgrim and not the Native American. The Native Americans even provided the bulk of the food…this is counter to the Pilgrim-centric view so often presented.
The second myth is that the Wampanoag were feasting with friends….Gov. William Bradford would say in his book “Of Plymouth Plantation,” which he began to write in 1630, that the Puritans had arrived in “a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men.”…weakening of the native population by disease from the new arrivals’ ships created an opening for the Pilgrims. King James’s patent called this spread of disease “a wonderfull Plague” that might help to devastate and depopulate the region. Some friends.
But many of those native people not killed by disease would be killed by direct deed.
The celebration in 1621 did not mark a friendly turning point and did not become an annual event. Relations between the Wampanoag and the settlers deteriorated, leading to the Pequot War. In 1637, in retaliation for the murder of a man the settlers believed the Wampanoags killed, they burned a nearby village, killing as many as 500 men, women, and children. Following the massacre, William Bradford, the Governor of Plymouth, wrote that for “the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a Governor was in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.”
..This was just one of the earliest episodes in which settlers and colonists did something horrible to the natives. There would be other massacres and many wars.
…And this says nothing of all the treaties brokered and then broken or all the grabbing of land removing populations, including the most famous removal of natives: the Trail of Tears. Beginning in 1831, tens of thousands of Native Americans were forced to relocate from their ancestral lands in the Southeast to lands west of the Mississippi River. Many died along the way.”
Another aspect of the Thanksgiving festival that some Americans are beginning to question is the mass slaughter of turkeys. As per this 2017 LA Times editorial, 46 million turkeys were killed for the festival, and 245 million turkeys were killed in that entire year.
The article goes on to say –
“No animals raised on factory farms are kept and killed under worse conditions than turkeys and chickens, which make up most of the animals raised for food in the U.S. Nearly 9 billion chickens are slaughtered each year for food. And because poultry is exempt from the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture enforces, there are not even minimum federal standards governing how they live or die.
Turkeys and so-called broiler chickens are genetically bred to grow fast (to satisfy our love for breast meat) and, typically, grow so big that they can barely walk by the time they are killed. As a result, they can suffer from painful skeletal disorders and leg deformities. The vast majority spend their short lives (about 47 days for chickens) in artificially lit, windowless, barren warehouse barns. So that turkeys won’t peck one another in these crowded barns, their beaks are painfully trimmed.
When it’s time to slaughter them, the live birds are shackled upside down on a conveyor belt, paralyzed by electrified water and then dragged over mechanical throat-cutting blades. The birds are supposed to be stunned unconscious by the electrified water, but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the birds miss the blades and end up tumbling into the tanks of scalding water, where they drown. These methods are so cruel that they would be prohibited by federal welfare laws — if the animals in question were cows or pigs.
These are the grim realities behind Americans’ traditional Thanksgiving meal.”
Every year, as part of an annual pre-Thanksgiving rite, the US President ‘pardons’ two big white fluffy turkeys in a photo op at the White House.