Obama_Turkey_Pardon12

Every year the president of the United States pardons a turkey or two, but what about the other 46 million turkeys who will be brutally slaughtered and picked apart limb by limb on dinner tables across the country? Are they any less deserving of being pardoned — of living out their natural lives?

For a holiday steeped in the tradition of giving thanks for an abundant harvest, it’s pretty hypocritical to give thanks and promote love and compassion while surrounding the carcass of a dead bird. The tradition of consuming a dead animal is far from aligned with this holiday’s life-affirming message.

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Thanksgiving is only a week away and most Americans have only ever encountered a turkey in the freezer section of the grocery store or one who was served to them on a platter – sadly, most have never experienced the joy of meeting a living, breathing turkey.

Turkeys are very beautiful birds. They pay great attention to grooming and preening their fancy feathers, while soaking up the warm sun and taking dust baths. Turkeys are known for their resourcefulness, agility and social nature. Like other birds, turkeys spend their days building nests and foraging for food. They also enjoy the companionship of others and create strong social bonds that last a lifetime.

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One turkey became my personal protector when I was trying to clean a barn and was continually accosted by a particularly rude and aggressive bird. Each time the aggressor would begin to close in on me, my hero would waddle over and get between me and his barn-mate. It was remarkable, and it happened over and over (turkeys are very persistent). What made this scene even more touching was the fact that these toms suffered from bumble foot, abscesses on the footpads that resemble corns, a common occurrence in domesticated turkeys. Between their grotesquely large breasts and inflamed feet, turkeys walk very awkwardly and with a lot of effort. I was very touched that such an effort was made on my behalf.

This is an excerpt from an Alternet.org article, Turkeys Are Our Friends, written by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (founder of Compassionate Cooks).

In the article, she also recalls a particular turkey who enjoyed “hugging” her.

“…a particularly friendly turkey became known for her propensity to hug. As soon as you crouched down, she would run over to you, press her body against yours, and crane her head over your shoulders, clucking all the while. It’s amazing how so generous a hug can be given by something with no arms.”

Opal is a perfect example of a turkey who loves to be loved. Opal narrowly escaped slaughter and is living the peaceful life at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, MD.  She very much enjoys being petted. In fact, I (Cindi) watched as she chose to be petted by adoring children and adults instead of eating the special Thanksgiving meal provided for her and the other birds at the sanctuary.

I read an online comment recently where the writer said that although wild turkeys can be clever, domesticated farmed turkeys are stupid.  There definitely are differences between wild and farmed turkeys. Wild turkeys can fly and run fast. Turkeys like Opal can barely walk, in fact many can’t. Wild turkeys are generally brownish, gray, or iridescent green, red, and bronze in color. Domestic turkeys are usually white.

But stupid? The first story above seems to negate that statement. These are birds who can reason and remember. They are even willing to risk their own safety to help another. They are also very affectionate. A turkey may not look, sound, or feel like your family dog or cat, but he or she is just as loving. They will sit comfortably in your lap and even purr when content. People who have adopted turkeys describe scenarios where their turkey sits on the couch with them to watch television. Perhaps the turkeys’ greatest downfalls are also some of their most charming attributes in that they are curious and trusting.

But my favorite adjective used to describe these sentient birds is BRAVE. They endure hideous conditions that would drive most anyone mad, and yet when they have the good fortune to be rescued, they are brave enough to trust again.

So today, on a day when the turkey is traditionally “celebrated” in a cruel fashion, I raise my glass of vegan wine to these brave birds and look forward to a Thanksgiving day where ALL turkeys are respected, honored, fed as dinner GUESTS, and of course, hugged.  Cheers to ALL the animals! ~ Cindi with FARM


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