Those walking by the intersection of East Grand Avenue and East Fourth Street in Des Moines were in for a surprise when they saw a half-naked man laying on his back posing as a Thanksgiving turkey on Wednesday.
Furrowed brows and perplexed smiles were on the faces of the people craning their necks to see the protest performance led by PETA, a nonprofit animal rights organization. The protest was meant to spread the message of the treatment of turkeys during Thanksgiving.
“More than 46 million turkeys are killed each year in the United States for Thanksgiving alone,” said Racheli Holstein, a junior campaigner with PETA.
Turkeys have a natural lifespan of 12 years, but only live up to three to five months before they are butchered for consumption, Holstein said.
“We’re here because nobody needs to consume meat,” said Holstein, who was handing out pamphlets of vegan Thanksgiving recipes. “I think people are open to giving some vegan recipes a try. Maybe they’re not ready for a full-on vegan feast, but hopefully eventually they will.”
Luis Correal, who was clad in only beige compression shorts and oversized turkey frills, said this was his fifth year participating in the event.
“It is a little uncomfortable, but it’s nothing in comparison to what all the turkeys go through during Thanksgiving,” Correal, who remained laying on his back posing as a turkey, said. “I get to be here for an hour being uncomfortable and feeling a little bit cold, but I get a break and the turkeys don’t.”
Correal, who had his head propped up by a plastic cup, said this was his second protest of the week. Both Holstein and Correal were in Kansas City, Missouri on Tuesday and plan to head to Indianapolis later this week.
“Hopefully we can change a lot of minds and hearts,” Correal said.
Many people who drove by the intersection were seen laughing and taking out their phones to snap a photo. Some drivers heckled Holstein and Correal before driving off and some gave their verbal support to the duo.
“Honestly, I’m proud of them,” Tony Smith, a passerby, said. “It’s tough to stand up for something whether I agree or disagree with it. PETA can be divisive, but they were very nice and I’m glad they’re out here doing it.”
Smith, who usually participates in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, said he might give the vegan recipe guide a try this year.
“I’ve always thought about, but maybe now I’ll consider it,” Smith said. “It can’t hurt to give it a try.”