In the season of goodwill, let’s extend our compassion to animals

19 December 2018

By Animal Welfare Director, Dave Neale

This is the time of the year when we are encouraged more than ever to show our compassion towards others, to think of those less fortunate than ourselves, and “do our bit” to give something back to society.  

That goodwill is a tradition that we actively enjoy. Whether it’s assisting the poor, reaching out to an estranged relative or simply sparing a thought for the less well off.

This year I am going to ask you to take “sparing a thought” a little further and ask you a single, festive, favour:  

Please spare a thought for animals this Christmas.

We’re told“Dogs are not just for Christmas”. It’s almost become a cliché. Don’t buy pets as gifts that will be discarded or ignored before New Year. It’s good advice. But are other animals not worth our consideration during the holidays?

Boise Wild Turkey

While we sit down to feast, many of us are unaware of the suffering that the animals, presented before us, have endured to get to our plates.

Turkey chicks undergo a series of painful mutilations including beak-trimming, toe-clipping and removal of the skin on the forehead known as the ‘snood’. These procedures are carried out without anaesthetic.

Meanwhile, the demand for a larger bird with more breast meat has meant a bird designed for eating and not for living. A bird characterised by heart failure, lameness, leg deformities and hip degeneration.

The above happens on a scale of hundreds of millions of birds.

I could go on.  

When looking at other countries, we often cite education as the difference between animal cruelty and acceptance of animals as sentient beings. And we are right, except the issue is not just confined to one country or continent – it is international.

As a first step, the acceptance of all animals as sentient will make people question all cruelty.

Take the Christmas staple of turkey. Often portrayed as a symbol of stupidity turkeys are in fact anything but stupid. They are sensitive, aware, and playful animals capable of a whole spectrum of emotions, and it is only when you allow yourself the time to get to know them that their true characteristics shine through.

Turkeys on the Fence in Santa Teresa County Park

Turkeys are sentient animals with a right to live their lives free from such suffering. They should be allowed to make choices in life just as we do, to choose to socialise with other members within their flock in environments which meet their needs and not to have their life taken from them.

So do “spare a thought” at Christmas for the less well off and ensure that includes animals.  So much cruelty is down to a lack of thought. A result of zero consideration – not a single moment’s contemplation.  Think again of our seasonal goodwill – why shouldn’t it extend to animals?

If we choose to celebrate the holidays by eating animals then we must accept responsibility for their lives and deaths.

These are perfect times for us to show our compassion towards animals, and for us to choose cruelty-free alternatives. We are fortunate enough to live at a time when there is an abundance of mouth-watering alternatives to eating animals, allowing you to enjoy guilt-free holidays without causing animals to suffer.

We are all animals and sharing goodwill genuinely increases our contentment. Spreading joy and thinking of not just mankind, but animalkind, can only make for a happier, more festive season all around.

For some ideas of what to cook this Christmas, visit the Vegan Recipe Club at