(THANKSGIVING/TURKEYS) Ady Gil is moving from sea to land, saving turkeys in time for Thanksgiving and giving the birds something to be thankful for. Gil, who is best known for donating $1 million to his namesake vessel with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is matching donations up to $50,000 for Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-A-Turkey program until November 25. — Global Animal

Ady Gil, Global Animal interview

For Ady Gil, it started in 1999 with $30 and a picture of a baby turkey. After adopting his first turkey over a decade ago from Farm Sanctuary, an organization working to protect farm animals from cruelty, Gil’s compassion for animals has only grown.

Now Gil, the man known for supporting anti-whaling causes by donating $1 million to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Ady Gil vessel, is hoping to make an impact in others, too, when it comes to creating a compassionate mindset towards animals.

“I found out that the turkey project is really easy to get people drawn into the animal movement because you can do something very small and then you feel like you’re part of a group,” said Gil at his home in the San Fernando Valley. “It’s only thirty dollars, right? I know that [this program] drew me in, and I said, well if it drew me in, maybe it can draw other people in, too,” he said.

Gil decided to match donations made to Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-A-Turkey Project up to $20,000 at the beginning of November. The response to the program was so overwhelming that Gil’s original donation wasn’t enough, and he increased his offer up to $50,000 until November 25.

“It’s a good trick in some ways,” said Gil about matching donations because it encourages even more people to donate. Each adopter receives a certificate and a photo of the turkey they saved as recognition.

Gil brought out his photo of a turkey named Shalom, the first he ever donated for. “Look, I saved it,” he said of the photo. “ It’s been sitting here for years. It’s nice to get the recognition.”

Ady Gil with a photo of Shalom,                               the first turkey he adopted from Farm Sanctuary.

While Gil acknowledges that people who adopt turkeys from Farm Sanctuary might still eat a bird during the holiday, he suggests that people re-evaluate the meat-eating tradition.

“I don’t think the holiday is any worse without a stuffed turkey,” said Gil, who became vegetarian gradually after his first experience saving a bird. “What’s with a turkey that it needs to be slaughtered in order for us to have a holiday? I don’t believe in sacrificing somebody,” he said.

“I don’t see anybody really having difficulty in their life because they didn’t eat a stuffed turkey,” he joked.

Pointing to his photo of Shalom, Gil added: “So this little baby, instead of being on my plate, can wake up roaming around and seeing the sun. He can enjoy life.

Gil says a gradual education about what people do to animals made him become the activist and animal lover he is today.

“You think eggs are from chickens roaming around and clucking. But do you know that a size of a chicken cage is like, 64 square inches? That’s smaller than a piece of paper. That’s what they’re given to live,” said Gil. “Who gave us the right to put animals in cages?” he said.

But like his own experience, an understanding of animals and our need to protect them instead of harm them can come to anyone according to Gil.

“The number one thing they want is to just live, so we can’t take that away from them,” he said. “What we need to do is put ourselves into the body of this animal for 24 hours and see how it feels…we need to educate people that taking life from another living creature is just not the right thing.”

“People will say, ‘Well that is the nature of this world. What do you think about tigers? They kill to eat,’” said Gil.

“Well, give a tiger a credit card, and he wouldn’t. Right?” he said with a laugh. “He’d go to Ralph’s and get some spaghetti or something.”

Find out how you can adopt a turkey here.

If you’re considering a new turkey-free Thanksgiving tradition, here are some inspired vegetarian and vegan recipes from the New York Times that’ll make anyone drool.

— Molly-Marie Canales, exclusive to Global Animal