Every year, the President of the United States pardons two turkeys from being slaughtered for Thanksgiving. But what most people don’t realize about this supposedly lighthearted tradition is that the majority of pardoned turkeys die within a year of their pardon. [tweet this]
And this year, as in several times before, the two presidential turkeys will come from my state—Iowa. [tweet this] Two days ago I was at a turkey slaughterhouse in Iowa, where over 20,000 turkeys a day are killed. They were terrified. Sitting in the cold for hours upon hours. Covered and feces and sores. One with a growth the size of a basketball on her chest. I stayed with them for hours and streamed footage live to the channel to share their stories on the last day of their lives. You can see those videos here.
The turkeys we eat are bred to grow very large very fast and are slaughtered at around 18-20 weeks of age. Because they’re so unnaturally large, those with the good fortune of being pardoned die from typically obesity-related complications. And as for where they get to live out the brief remainder of their lives? Destinations have ranged from Disneyland, to Mount Vernon, to this place, and now…here, where the public gets to ogle them in their enclosures.
This extravagant production, run by the lobbyist organization the National Turkey Federation, essentially serves as an extended governmental infomercial for the turkey industry. The Federation’s annual turkey gifting began more or less in 1947 when angry farmers sent crates of live hens to President Truman in protest of his failed “poutlryless Thursday” attempt to reduce national meat and egg consumption.
But it doesn’t take a president to pardon a turkey. And as you can see, it’s not much of a reprieve after all. To show you how it’s really done, and shine some light on this dark holiday—founded upon the massacre of an entire people, who still mourn the loss of their families while others gather in celebration with their own.
I want to share with you a story of hope from Rowdy Girl Sanctuary in Texas. [tweet this] The following video was created by the incredible film making team Chee Wei and Alana Tompson.
You’ll hear Rowdy Girl Founder Renee mention FFA, which along with 4-H is pro-farming agricultural youth program, teaching children how to raise, care for and show so-called “food” animals before sending them to slaughter. To hear more about other FFA and 4H survivors, see this video about the residents of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary.
[See the video above for the account of Rowdy Girl's FFA turkey rescue.]
Please share this video this holiday season to show what true compassion looks like and the truth about Thanksgiving. You can use the social links at the bottom of this post and/or the clickable tweets: Hey Obama! | What Happens After? | What It's Like
See the videos linked below for more about Thanksgiving’s dark history, what turkeys really experience, and to get involved with and support the work of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary.
FEATURED VIDEOS & RESOURCES:
CITATIONS: [bibliography available below citations]
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 Betty C. Monkman, “Pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey,” WHHA, accessed November 23, 2016, https://www.whitehousehistory.org/pardoning-the-thanksgiving-turkey.
 Domenico Montanaro, “The Strange Truth Behind Presidential Turkey Pardons,” NPR.org, November 25, 20156:03 AM ET, http://www.npr.org/2015/11/25/457253194/the-strange-truth-behind-presidential-turkey-pardons.
 Mike Ahlers, “Pardoned Turkey’s Death Untimely? Only to the Naive,” November 21, 2012, http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/21/pardoned-turkeys-death-untimely-only-to-the-naive/.
 PETA, “Pardon Me? The Grim Fate of The White House Turkeys,” PETA, accessed November 22, 2016, http://www.peta.org/features/white-house-turkey-pardon/.
 Lauren Fox, “2010 Turkeys Pardoned By Obama Died This Year,” US News & World Report, accessed November 23, 2016, http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2011/11/22/2010-turkeys-pardoned-by-obama-died-this-year.
 Brad Plumer, “The Turkey Pardon Is America’s Most Absurd Holiday Tradition,” Vox, November 24, 2014, http://www.vox.com/2014/11/24/7276353/white-house-turkey-pardon.
 Brad Plumer, “The Turkey Pardon Is America’s Dumbest Tradition,” Washington Post, accessed November 23, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/11/26/the-turkey-pardon-is-americas-dumbest-tradition/.
 Lisa Gutierrez, “Here’s How a Pardoned Turkey’s Journey from Iowa to Obama Will Unfold,” Kansascity, November 15, 2016, http://www.kansascity.com/news/nation-world/national/article114983303.html.
 Amanda Stone, “President Obama’s Final Turkey Pardon,” Whitehouse.gov, November 21, 2016, https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/11/22/president-obama-final-turkey-pardon.
 “WEST LIBERTY FOODS, L.L.C.|Company Profile|Vault.com,” Vault, accessed November 23, 2016, http://www.vault.com/company-profiles/food-beverage/west-liberty-foods,-llc/company-overview.aspx.