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Animal Rights

Pushing the Obama to Save Turkeys This Thanksgiving

Photo Courtesy of Connie Pugh for Farm Sanctuary

Starting in 1989 with President George H.W. Bush, each Thanksgiving the president of the United States officially pardons two turkeys during a ceremony at the White  House.  What this means is that the birds are spared from being slaughtered and turned into dinner.

Originally, the turkeys were taken to Kidewell Farm, a petting zoo as part of Frying Pan park (funny name for a petting zoo…) located in Virginia. However, starting in 2005, the turkeys have been sent to either Disneyland in California or Disney World in Florida, following their role in Disney’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  As happy as this may sound for the turkeys, unfortunately many of them end up dying within the first year, defeating the purpose of the presidential pardoning.

According to Farm Sanctuary, commercially-raised turkeys are selectively bred to grow abnormaly large and fast, making them prone to serious health issues and necessitating specialized care. Disney-themed parks are illequipped to provide the level of care needed to keep these birds happy and alive for the full life that they deserve.

To deal with this problem and give the turkeys the appropriate treatment they need, Farm Sanctuary is petitioning the White House to send the turkeys to their shelter in Watkins Glen, New York, instead of to Disney.

“We are offering the Obama administration an opportunity to distinguish themselves from past administrations by starting a new, compassionate Thanksgiving tradition that is more in-step with Americans’ growing concern about the welfare of animals raised for food,” says Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary. “By sending the pardoned birds to Farm Sanctuary’s renowned shelter in Watkins Glen, N.Y., the Obama Administration can show that it cares about the humane treatment of animals, and ensure that the turkeys get the expert care they need to thrive.”

The shelter has been rescuing turkeys for over twenty years, providing essential veterinary care and an environment tailored specifically for the health of the birds.  Turkeys at Farm Sanctuary live an average of four to five years, meaning a 4-5 time greater life than the typical bird sent to Disney.  The farm is also responsible for providing lifelong care to hundreds of other rescued animals.

Get involved and help Farm Sanctuary in urging the White house to send the turkeys to a happier, more sensible home.  The petition, information about Thanksgiving’s toll on turkeys, and resources for a compassionate holiday can be found at