Animal Welfare

On The National Thanksgiving Turkey


Every year, POTUS pardons one turkey from becoming the dead body centerpiece for a Thanksgiving meal. This year, the turkey pardon is a little different: the public will vote on which turkey President Obama will pardon (sort of). The two turkeys who are battling it out are Popcorn and Caramel, pictured above. When I first read about this, I thought it was sadistic to pick which turkey to save and which one to be murdered. But then it became clear that, actually, both turkeys are going to be pardoned. Only one will be named the National Thanksgiving Turkey, though. Voting has already closed, and the winning turkey will be announced this afternoon.

This social media game of pardoning turkeys is striking to me. I find it interesting that in these scenarios, it’s acceptable to make animals relatable and cutesy (turkeys love pop music just like us!) and to show off their impressive traits such as their signature sounds. The National Thanksgiving Turkey has personality! We can see how beautiful Caramel and Popcorn are, posed, with their gorgeous feathers. We’re supposed to be impressed by their looks so much that we’re moved to want them saved from slaughter. This is problematic.

When it comes to our own Thanksgiving dinner, we stop anthropomorphizing turkeys, we stop making them relatable, and we no longer see them as the beautiful creatures that they are. All of a sudden, people want to deny that the food on their plate had a personality, had emotions, had sentience. Ultimately, we no longer want to understand or know about the food animals we eat. How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t want to know about it!” when you try to engage them in conversation about the sentience of food animals and the inherent cruelty in eating animals?

So instead, we remain silent and carry on mistreating them, beginning with artificial insemination to finally slaughter. This is the life of your Thanksgiving turkey (spoiler alert: your turkey did not listen to Lady Gaga or Beyonce). Because of how we’ve bred turkeys for consumption, their lifespans are about 18 weeks.  During their short lives, bred turkeys cannot fly, and in fact, they can barely stand up Sadly, the pardoned turkeys do not continue on for much longer. 

ImageApproximately 46 million turkeys will be feasted upon Thanksgiving. Will you be complicit? I won’t.

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