Disrupting the "Turkey Bowl"
On Thanksgiving Day, DxE activists stormed the field of an NFL football game in Detroit viewed by an estimated 27.8 million, and their message was heard by tens of millions more through over 1,000 press outlets around the world. Below, the activists reflect on the significance of the holiday, violence toward animals, and their experience.
Contributions by Eva Hamer, Cat Roberts, Rachel Golusinski, Araceli Rodriguez, and Matt Johnson
Traditionally a day of giving thanks and spending time with loved ones, Thanksgiving is more realistically a tragic celebration of death and violence. In addition to marking the genocide of indigenous Americans, 45 million turkeys are killed annually for this “holiday” alone. With this in mind, the annual Thanksgiving NFL football game known as the “Turkey Bowl” made an ideal platform to expose the truth and bring a previously-ignored topic to the table.
We entered the game with tickets, we investigated several possibilities to get onto the field. We were ultimately able to run directly onto the field using a short stairway guarded by only one person. We timed our entrance so as to interrupt a play, running near the athletes in the middle of the field. Our signs read “Animal Liberation Now” and “It’s Not Food, It’s Violence,” both of which were widely reported.
Several seconds later, we were all escorted off the field by security and handcuffed. We were overjoyed that of the four of us who ran, three actually made it on the field with our banners visible. Beaming, but unable to hug, we exchanged kisses on the cheeks. The police officers expressed annoyance at our joy and occasionally threatened with us with felony charges and long stays in jail. We tried, often unsuccessfully, to keep our faces somber to appease them.
After being held briefly in the stadium, we were transported to a local police station where we were held on misdemeanor charges until late into the night. About twelve hours passed between entering the field and being released on bail. Most of this time was spent together in a holding cell with several others, with very little (vegan) food and bright lights on throughout the night. Nevertheless, we remained in good spirits.
Time passed quickly at first and slowly later on as we transitioned from lively conversation to thinking up riddles and games to trying to doze on concrete floors and metal benches. As the correctional officers periodically walked by the cell, we often thought of the low stimulation environments of animals in confinement who have no bail to look forward to.
Given the scale of animal oppression, we were happy to tolerate whatever consequences came our way for speaking up. It was thrilling to actually make it on the field, and we felt thankful to spend our time in the cell together.
Our action was particularly relevant in the wake of DxE’s investigation of Whole Foods’ turkey facilities. Activists found that in even the highest-rated “humane” operations, horrific suffering is the norm. Victims spend their entire lives completely surrounded by their own excrement. They endure mutilation without pain killers and, of course, inevitable violent death. To disrupt the NFL game meant that this truth was able to reach more people through news outlets like the Washington Post.
Also, DxE’s commitment to activists’ well-being was outstanding throughout. They tirelessly followed up on our situation with many phone calls, a money transfer, and very little sleep that night. It was exactly the type of community support that allows DxE to prosper, granting us the wherewithal to handle the legal consequences and to even dream up such a powerful disruption.
Today, our activists are more empowered, our network more connected, and our message more widely heard than ever before. And we will continue to empower, connect, and speak up – until every animal is free.