The Presidential Turkey Pardon Needs to Stop. Here’s Why.

Two turkeys from a South Dakota farm are on their way to Washington, DC, for President Trump to pardon this Thanksgiving. Presidents have been presented with turkeys to pardon for nearly 80 years. And though many Americans may find this tradition sweet, it is actually ridiculous and sad.

These birds are selected by representatives from the National Turkey Federation, a meat industry group whose sole purpose is to promote eating turkeys. That’s right. They don’t care about the well-being of these sensitive and intelligent animals; they just want to keep profiting off their deaths.

Furthermore, in 2000, presidents started pardoning two turkeys, one of whom is known as the “backup.” But why? The birds are at such high risk of becoming sick or even dying before the ceremony takes place that producers send an alternate. At today’s factory farms, turkeys are bred to grow so fast and large that they’re often unable to walk or even stand, and their internal organs can’t keep up. In fact, a whopping 10 percent of all turkeys die before reaching the slaughterhouse.

After their high-profile ceremony with President Trump on Tuesday, this year’s birds will be sent to Gobbler’s Rest at Virginia Tech. Sadly, most of the turkeys pardoned in the past have survived only a year or two because of these unhealthy breeding practices. The natural life span of a turkey is up to 10 years.

The fact is, over 45 million turkeys are killed for Americans to eat at Thanksgiving each year. And like most animals raised and killed for food, turkeys are put through hell at factory farms from the moment they’re born until they’re violently killed.

These animals never get to know the love of their mothers or feel the sunlight on their backs or the grass beneath their feet. Instead, they are subjected to mutilations without painkillers and crammed by the thousands into dark, windowless sheds.


For maximum profit, turkeys are bred to grow so quickly they often become immobilized under their own weight. They reach “market size” in just several weeks. Many suffer debilitating leg and joint pain, heart attacks, and organ failure. Because of their immobility, many birds have to sit in their own waste, which causes painful sores and infections.

When they reach the desired weight, they are rounded up, crammed onto trucks, and shipped to slaughter. The trip can take days. Given no food or water and exposed to all weather conditions, many turkeys die before reaching the slaughterhouse.


Once the turkeys arrive, they are shackled upside down by their feet and have their throats cut open. Some birds are improperly shackled and miss the kill blade, and many are scalded alive in the defeathering tanks.




Turkeys are just as sensitive and intelligent as the dogs and cats we adore at home. This senseless and horrifying abuse flies in the face of everything Thanksgiving is about: gratitude.

This year, make the compassionate choice to leave turkey off your Thanksgiving dinner menu. Click here for a list of vegan Thanksgiving recipes.
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