So you're vegetarian or vegan and loathe Turkey Day? Don't worry about avoiding turkey this holiday. Adopt one! Now you have a special way to bring turkey to your family meal, while embracing the meaning of the holiday and keeping a vegetarian Thanksgiving.
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Whether it's your grandmother trying to shove some slices of ham on to your plate ("To fatten you up!") or an uncle who likes to talk about your protein intake in front of the whole family, maintaining a meat-free lifestyle can be awkward in the holiday months.

Each Thanksgiving, Americans eat an average of 45 million turkeys, so it's certainly not the cultural norm to avoid eating that revered big bird on the big day. But there is a way to "bring" a turkey to your family's Thanksgiving gathering, all the while remaining vegetarian or vegan.

How to Adopt a Turkey

The solution? Sponsoring a rescued turkey instead of eating one. Sponsored turkeys are often rescued from farms where they've been bread specifically for the holidays. Many organizations offer the opportunity to sponsor a single bird or a whole flock. You can give a one-time gift for a single bird, or you can maintain a monthly donation to help turkeys live a long, healthy life.

Where to Adopt a Turkey

Many non-profit animal sanctuaries house and rehabilitate abandoned or injured turkeys, and plenty of those could benefit from a financial donation. Look for a local sanctuary that offers this service. (You may even be able to visit your rescued turkey in person.) Donate to more well-known facilities which offer the ability to sponsor from afar.

Three facilities to consider if you want to sponsor a turkey:

  1. Farm Sanctuary - Established in 1986, this farm animal rescue organization rescues thousands of animals each year and rehabilitates them at one of their sanctuary facilities. These facilities are in Watkins Glen, NY; Northern California (Orland); and the Los Angeles area.
  2. Woodstock Farm Sanctuary - Turkeys join chickens, ducks, sheep, and other farm animals on this New York farm located in the Catskill Mountains. For each donation, Woodstock Farm Sanctuary will send you a card with a photo of the turkey you're sponsoring, as well as a bit of biographical information 
  3. Wildwood Farm Sanctuary - A donation to this Oregon farm animal sanctuary will earn you a photo of the bird you've sponsored. Frame it, and let it join you and your family at the Thanksgiving table.

How Much Does Sponsoring a Turkey Cost?

For some farms, you can make a one-time donation of as little or as much as you'd like. Others have set amounts, ranging between $30 and $50 for their turkey sponsorship program. Be sure to check with the organization to see if they're a registered non-profit so you can deduct the donation from your taxes.

What Do You Get if You Adopt a Turkey?

Sponsoring a turkey is a lot less troublesome than adopting a pet. For a one-time fee, you can help house, feed, and care for a turkey. Choose your favorite turkey, like Spunky who loves blueberries or Ruthie who's curious and friendly, and just pay to sponsor. You may even be sent a little card or pamphlet featuring your turkey's photo, fun personality facts about them, and how grateful the sanctuary is for your contribution. Prop that up as the centerpiece of your next Thanksgiving gathering, and know that no turkeys were harmed for the making of your holiday feast.