On the fourth Thursday of every November, millions of Americans gather with family, friends and loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving. Often a turkey is the main attraction on most dinner tables, one of more than 46 million consumed in the U.S. on Thanksgiving alone, according to the National Turkey Federation. This year Thanksgiving is coming to Western a week early, albeit without the turkey, brought to campus by the AS club Western Animal Rights Network (WARN).

Turkeyless Thanksgiving has been a popular November event, attracting more than 200 hungry diners in 2007. Replacing the turkey as the centerpiece of the vegetarian feast is Tofurky Roast.

“We're serving Tofurky because, as the saying goes, ‘Meat's no treat for those you eat'. People don't think about the carnage on their plates,” said Shawn Herbold, Coordinator of WARN. “We want attendees to this event to see that a Thanksgiving without turkey gives turkeys reason to give thanks.”

Tofurky Roast is made from a blend of wheat gluten and organic non-genetically engineered soybeans. It is approved as all-vegan by the Vegan Society and is kosher-certified by the Kosher Supervision of America. Not only is Tofurky a vegan alternative, but it is also a healthier alternative to traditional turkey.

According to the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory, one serving of Tofurky has fewer calories and less fat than turkey, about half the saturated fat and no cholesterol.

“We want people to learn about the benefits of being vegetarian, for themselves and for the animals and to see that [vegetarian] food isn't all kale and tofu.

“Vegan food can be fabulous!” Herbold said.

The Nov. 20 banquet will take place in Viking Union 565 A, B and C from 6 to 8 p.m. Four dollars will give students access to an all-you-can-eat vegetarian holiday meal.

WARN went to great efforts to keep the rest of the Thanksgiving feast as traditional as possible, working closely with University Dining Services to coordinate the event.

“I expect the room full and to serve every last bit of food,” said Timothy Bartunek, Director of catering.

On the menu this year are approximately 30 Tofurkeys, 50 pounds of potatoes, 32 pounds of green beans, 15 dozen homemade rolls and 22 vegan pumpkin pies.

“You can still have a traditional Thanksgiving without harming animals,” said Anna Cox, WARN member and event organizer. “I am not out to convert anyone to this lifestyle. I just want people to know that it's not as hard as they think and a lot better for you.”

Thanksgiving has undergone many changes since the First Thanksgiving feast in 1621. Nearly 400 years ago, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians feasted on freshly hunted wild turkey. Today most Americans enjoy overstuffed, hormone-grown turkeys, almost all of which have never even seen the wild. In 2006, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released an undercover video depicting Butterball employees violently mistreating factory-grown turkeys.

WARN was founded to help put an end to animal cruelty through education, outreach and volunteerism. They strive to inform others about how animals suffer, particularly at the hands of humans, and what people can do to stop it, Herbold said.

“After learning of the horrific abuses inflicted on animals in factory farms, I became vegan,” Herbold said. “That was more than five years ago and I have never looked back. I believe that knowledge is only power when you apply that knowledge in a meaningful way for the betterment of society.”