Miss Conduct

Getting turkey to the table

A post-Thanksgiving inquiry into slaughtering ethics. Plus, a dispute over concert tickets.

Lucy Truman

If I have the chance, should I kill my own turkey or just rely on the hired killers employed by my local supermarket? Which is more ethical? Ignore any issues of cruelty — that’s not a part of my question — all methods assumed to be “humane.”

P.L. / Marblehead

What a question. I suspect you had quite the debate at your Thanksgiving table. The methods of slaughter might be equally humane in either case, but a turkey that meets its demise in the wild has at least gotten a chance to fight for love and glory, as we all hope to do, and hasn’t spent its brief existence crammed in a pen and shot full of drugs. Also, I’ve heard from friends who either shoot well or drive badly that a wild turkey is infinitely more flavorful than its plastic-wrapped cousin.

I assume, however, that you wouldn’t be consuming this hypothetical turkey alone, and that’s where things get tricky. In case you haven’t noticed, people are weird about food. We diet, we taboo, we gluttonize, we taste what we expect to taste rather than what is actually on the plate. We use food to show our cultural and ethnic and ethical affiliations. You, obviously, want to be That Guy Who Killed His Own Turkey That One Year. There’s no shame in that. However, it does put a hostly burden on you to serve that turkey only to people who want to be The Kind of People Who Would Eat a Turkey Some Guy Killed. Some people may have ethics or prejudices or squeamishness about such a thing, and there’s no shame in that, either.


Keep in mind, also, that butchering a turkey is something about which many people will have questions, questions to which many other people will desperately prefer not to hear the answers, especially while they’re eating. (What do you do about the lice on a wild bird? Any readers care to enlighten me by e-mail?) Have a “Meet Your Entree!” seminar before the meal in the kitchen for those who want to hear the gory details while you let the tenderhearted or flippy-stomached refresh their drinks in the living room.

A friend bought a $225 ticket for me for a three-day outdoor concert. I couldn’t go and was prepared to reimburse my friend if she couldn’t get rid of the ticket. However, the third day was canceled due to rain (so my friend got reimbursed for that by the venue) and another friend bought the remaining two days for $150. I don’t think I owe anyone anything at this point, but some folks are saying that I should reimburse the friend who bought the two-day ticket for part of her expense. What do you think?

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Y.M. / Watertown

I don’t think you owe anyone any money, either. Everyone here got what they paid for. Your first friend received full value back on the ticket she’d bought, and your other friend got to see two days’ worth of outdoor concerting for the going price. Perhaps the second friend feels that she was doing you a favor by taking the tickets off your hands, but if that’s the case she should have made it clear to you at the beginning that $150 was out of budget but she’d buy them for $100 (in which case you still would have owed your original friend the remaining $50). She seemed willing enough to take the tickets for the market price, so it’s hard to see how you’ve done anyone wrong here.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.

NEED LAST-MINUTE HOLIDAY TIPS? Write to Miss Conduct at And get advice live during a chat with Robin Abrahams on Wednesday, December 18, from noon to 1 p.m.