A Thanksgiving Tradition for Almost a Decade
46 million turkeys. That’s how many turkeys finder.com expects Americans to eat this year, and this amount has stayed fairly consistent for almost a decade. In 2013, it was the same amount, which inspired the 46 Million Turkeys project. 46MT is an art collaboration started by Maine vegan artist Cheryl Miller to create a portrait for every single turkey that was raised and slaughtered for Thanksgiving.
Art by Jesse Bifulco
The project has garnered plenty of participation. Miller is a frequent visitor to Portland’s First Friday festivals. She and her volunteers invite passersby to draw a small portrait (like the one shown), which is then posted to her online gallery and Instagram. 46MT has amassed a collection of turkey portraits from almost every state, as well as from countries all over the world, including England, Scotland, and South Africa.
“If asked to distinguish individual turkeys among thousands crammed into a shed or barn, most people would “see” little difference between the animals. And yet, each bird is a unique individual.” Miller wrote in a blog for the Maine Street Vegan. The idea of individuality was what gave birth to the project’s unique crowd-sourced nature. Instead of painting 46 million portraits herself, Miller is calling on fans of 46MT to submit their own drawings, sculptures, and whatever else they can think of.
The Beacon reached out to Miller about her project.
JB: What inspired 46 Million Turkeys?
CM: While working at Farm Sanctuary in New York, I met my very first living turkey. The birds were so sweet and gentle and I knew I wanted to do some kind of advocacy for turkeys. That year (1998), I began a personal tradition of painting a turkey portrait on Thanksgiving.
JB: What alternatives to the classic Thanksgiving meal do you recommend?
CM: A shepherd’s pie made with seitan and vegan whoopie pies.
JB: I have just one more question: What is the current count? Have you reached 46 million yet?
CM: The count is at 46,377,265.
This year, Miller’s gallery was held at the American Vegan Center in Pennsylvania. However, she’s accepting submissions year-round to be displayed on her website.