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Vegan Guide To Thanksgiving: Recipes, Relatives And Reality

Thanksgiving is a magical time when most Americans come together with family to gorge themselves to the point of a full-blown food-coma. Oh, and give thanks, be grateful, and that stuff too. Given that food is such a cornerstone of our social interactions and traditions, holidays—and Thanksgiving in particular—can be very intimidating for new and existing vegans.

And aside from the logistics of what to eat and how to deal with your loved ones, the ethical issues surrounding this “day of thanks” are quite troubling: from the very first Thanksgiving's foundation upon the slaughter of an indigenous people to the annual tradition revolving around the mass slaughter of turkeys.

How is a vegan to handle a holiday so loaded with (potential) landmines? Just leave it to this guide to help you navigate Thanksgiving like a pro—from “surviving” your non-vegan family to dropping “fun fact” historical truth bombs at the table to even educating effectively about the ethics of exploitation. Now that's something to be thankful for!


Before we dig into what to eat for Thanksgiving, let's take a look on where (and how) this all started. Impress your family with your historical prowess while secretly busting out an educational activism sneak-attack with the true history of this twisted holiday with:

The Truth About Thanksgiving: Celebrating Genocide With Genocide

Now I’m not here to spoil your holiday or invalidate your family traditions.  I simply want to take a look at both the origins of Thanksgiving and the current practices involved with its observance. Most of us Americans grow up with the romantic recitation of the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and “Indians” coming together to feast.

But this holiday has a human cost at its foundation—for all its warm and fuzzy feelings, Thanksgiving is essentially the celebration of the genocide with a genocide.

Read more and find additional links and resources here.

Vegan Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

Below is the full recipe playlist. Click the Click this icon to see hte full playlist and navigate between videos icon to navigate between videos

Now that you know how this whole Thanksgiving thing started, you may not feel so celebratory. But who's to say you don't start your own tradition altogether? Luckily, going vegan doesn't mean giving up your favorite holiday-tied tastes.

Given how un-gifted I am when it comes to the kitchen, I teamed up with eight meal-mastering vegan YouTubers to bring you the “how to” of an epically ethical Thanksgiving dinner.

Grab the recipes and get all the tasty details here.

Five Months to Live | Draw My Life

If you're anything like me, one of the hardest parts of this holiday is the pain of knowing what the turkeys we break, breed, confine and kill experience. That awareness can make it incredibly challenging to be around non-vegan friends and family, much less try to talk to them about the issue.

This Draw My Life video offers a way to introduce loved ones to what turkeys experience—with all of the weight of their suffering, but without a single graphic image. Consisting entirely of marker-board-drawings and a poetic voice-over, this video follows the abbreviated five-month lifespan of a single turkey. As he shares his story, we see it all through his eyes.

Find the written poem-transcript and resources for learning more about what turkeys experience here.

Hey President! Here’s How You REALLY Pardon A Turkey

Every year, the President of the United States pardons two turkeys from being slaughtered for Thanksgiving.[1] But what most people don’t realize about this supposedly lighthearted tradition is that the majority of pardoned turkeys die within a year of their pardon

Read more and find additional links and resources here.

LIVE From An Iowa Turkey Slaughterhouse: Thanksgiving Truth

Below is the full live stream playlist. Click the Click this icon to see hte full playlist and navigate between videos icon to navigate between videos

The most powerfully effective way to make the connection between the body on our plate and the being they once were is to look them directly in the eye. I streamed this footage live to YouTube from a turkey slaughterhouse near me here in Iowa just before Thanksgiving. Even this small slaughterhouse alone kills over 20,000 turkeys a day.

I stayed with them for hours. In the Iowa cold.  They were terrified. Covered in feces and sores. Wheezing from respiratory infections and the weight of their overgrown bodies. Some already dying.

Within hours of this footage, they had all been killed. Dragged through an electrified water tank before having their throats slit open. All for families to gather over their corpses and “give thanks.”

This is nothing to be thankful for.

Read more and find additional links and resources here.

Now that we've covered the hows and whys of a vegan Thanksgiving, and the disturbing origins of the holiday itself, I'll leave you with something perhaps even more disturbing: your family:

How To Stay Vegan During The Holidays With Non-Vegans


Holidays can be a challenging time regardless of your dietary inclination. When you’re vegan in a family of non-vegans and/or surrounded by non-vegan friends, things get even less merry. But fear not because today I’m going to share my top tips for staying vegan during the holidays. [tweet this]

While you always have the option of not eating with your family and friends for the holidays, if you want to be with loved ones who still eat…well, loved ones, hopefully these tips can help. [tweet this]

Find more resources on social situations, non-vegan family interaction, and holiday recipes here.

I hope this holiday guide has helped you get grateful for your “vegan vision,” while finding tools for handling the challenges that come with such awareness. While going vegan can be daunting when thinking of holidays and social gatherings, it also opens up opportunities for creativity and educating others.

I’d love to hear what you thought of this guide! Did you know the history of Thanksgiving? If you’re vegan, what (if anything) do you do for Thanksgiving? If you’re not vegan, does the worry of how to handle such holidays stop you from making the switch? Let me know in the comments!

Please share this guide around to help other vegans and vegans-to-be! (See the handy share links below!)

Now go live vegan, and I’ll see you soon.







Vegan Holidays Guides & Recipes: Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years & More!
Thanksgiving Video Playlist
How To Stay Vegan During the Holidays With Non-Vegans
Christmas Recipe Roundup
Complete Guide to a Vegan Halloween


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  1. Maria on 01/19/18 at 10:40 am

    Hi Emily I wanted to ask do you think you will ever come back to youtube? Much love from all vegans who watched and loved your videos

    • Emily Moran Barwick on 01/25/18 at 10:59 am

      Yes, most definitely, Maria! That’s precisely what I’m working on now. I have really missed making videos more than I can ever explain. It actually hurts not to be making them. But I am working full-time on all the foundational logistics and painfully boring stuff that’s necessary to get the videos going again. Please know that I’m doing my best and as quickly as possible to get back to what really matters!!

      • Susan Miller on 02/11/18 at 1:17 pm

        You are so awesome, and have taught me so much. I can’t wait to see your new videos!

        • Emily Moran Barwick on 02/25/18 at 4:58 pm

          SO sorry for the delayed response, Susan and thank you so much for your kind words! I did just post a new video today, if you didn’t see it yet, it’s this one. :) Much love and all my thanks!! So honored to have been of any help!

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