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Fifteen Minutes of Fame Cannot Save Pardoned Turkeys

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Soon, President Obama will spare two turkeys from slaughter during the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. It is a light-hearted moment, designed to appeal to America’s optimism and sense of humor.

Unfortunately, this Thanksgiving ritual, formalized by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, is less about saving turkeys and more about providing a photo op for the President. Here is what the White House may not want us to know about the President’s pardoned turkeys:

  • Pardoned turkeys are pre-selected at birth and trained to handle loud noises, flash photography and crowds.
  • Pardoned turkeys are raised in the same manner as turkeys raised for slaughter, meaning they will suffer numerous health problems associated with obesity.
  • A wild turkey lives for about twelve years, but pardoned Thanksgiving turkeys, usually less than two years old when they are pardoned, typically die within two years of being pardoned.

In 2012, Huffington Post contributor Katy Hall pointed out that wild turkeys average around 18 pounds, whereas Liberty and Peace, the turkeys pardoned by President Obama in 2011, weighed 45 pounds each.

Liberty and Peace are now dead, as are 2012’s pardoned turkeys Cobbler and Gobbler. This year, a more benevolent move would be for President Obama to adopt a turkey from Farm Sanctuary and save the photo op for a delicious tofurkey dinner.

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