The humble turkey's connection to American politics dates back at least as far Benjamin Franklin, and more recently, of course, it has figured prominently in an event that has become political tradition: The President's annual pardoning of a bird otherwise destined for human consumption.
Although many animal lovers can get behind the idea of sparing a bird, one advocacy group, Farm Sanctuary, is asking for an adjustment in the turkey-pardoning protocol. Farm Sanctuary, which operates two large-scale rescue farms, is asking President Obama to allow this year's pardoned turkeys to be moved to its Watkins Glen, N.Y., sanctuary, rather than to a Disney park as planned.
According to Farm Sanctuary, it is uniquely qualified to provide care for turkeys bred for food, which are a far cry from their wild ancestors and often experience leg problems and other maladies as a result of breeding programs that emphasize fast weight gain rather than long-term health. "At Disney theme parks, which have been entrusted with the care of pardoned turkeys since 2005, many of the birds have died within one year," a petition circulated by the group reads in part. "At Farm Sanctuary, these birds can live happily and comfortably for many years."
Farm Sanctuary isn't the only animal advocacy group to have qualms about the pardoning ceremony. Jennifer Fearing, California state director for the Humane Society of the United States, told Unleashed last year that she sees the ritual as "an odd one, in that it suggests that turkeys have committed some offense for which they can be pardoned. In reality, these turkeys have done nothing to deserve the punishment we force them to endure on our nation's factory farms."
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has previously urged President Obama to send pardoned turkeys to an animal rescue farm instead of a Disney park.
-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: Former President George W. Bush pets a turkey named Flyer after pardoning him in a 2006 ceremony. Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press