By Ian Anderson
BU News Service
CAMBRIDGE — With less than a week until Thanksgiving, the morality of putting turkeys on the dinner table took center stage at a one-person protest near Alewife Saturday afternoon.
Despite expecting more attendees, Dominique Ruszala, from “Boston Animal Save,” stood firmly on a sidewalk outside the Trader Joe’s at the Alewife Brook Parkway Shopping Center and just across from a Whole Foods. As drivers passed and shoppers scurried in and out of the two supermarkets, she stood for two hours with signs encouraging passersby to spare turkeys and choose veganism.
“I hope to challenge the normalcy of killing millions of turkeys every year to give thanks,” Ruszala said. “Make people think about the unseen victims of this holiday and cause people to have conversations about the animals on their plates.”
Boston Animal Save is a nonprofit, animal rights organization started by Ruszala in March 2017 working in the greater Boston area and is part of The Save Movement – launched in December 2010 – which currently claims to have more than 500 chapters worldwide. The Save Movement holds vigils at slaughterhouses and other places where animals suffer and promotes a vegan diet and lifestyle. Recently, the Boston group staged actions near Cambridge’s Mayflower Poultry Co. and in Harvard Square, she said.
In 2017 an estimated 44 million turkeys were killed and eaten for Thanksgiving, 22 million for Christmas and 19 million for Easter, according to the National Turkey Federation. Ruszala said though the conversation can make some people uncomfortable, sharing the stories of what happens to millions of turkeys every Thanksgiving can make a change in the way people celebrate holidays.
“Celebrations don’t have to involve meat,” said Ruszala. “There are so many alternative recipes online. People can get creative with their Thanksgivings.”
Throughout the protest, passing drivers and pedestrians gave thumbs-ups or cheers to Ruszala while others walked by her laughing and pointing. Before speeding off laughing, one driver slowed down to shout, “Boo, I love turkey!”
Ruszala was unphased and unsurprised by the ridicule and said people yelling or making animal sounds at her is not uncommon. In the face of mockery and derision, she said she in no way thinks these are bad people, but rather, they are uncomfortable when confronted with a problem they perpetuate themselves.
“It all comes from guilt, and they lash out because of anger for feeling bad for something they have done,” Ruszala said. “People don’t want to think about it, so we have to have conversations to make them think about it.”
One of those conversations happened on the sidewalk during her protest. Cyprian Leacock, an employee at the shopping center’s T-Mobile, said Ruszala’s words had a significant impact on him.
“I’m kind of with it,” Leacock said. “You don’t have to eat turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving with your friends and family.”
Leacock was at work when he said he saw Ruszala through a window and came out to talk to her. When she gave him a pamphlet and explained why she was standing alone in the cold, Leacock said he realized how big of an impact protests can have even when there is one person.
“Of course it’s a little stronger with a crowd,” Leacock said. “But these things are much more about getting the conversation started.”