The Presidential Turkey Pardon Is Fake News

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3 min read

In keeping with an inflated and misguided tradition, President Donald Trump will soon “pardon” a turkey so that the bird won’t be killed to become a Thanksgiving centerpiece. But let’s clear up a couple of misconceptions. First, turkeys don’t need to be “pardoned.” They aren’t serving five to 10 for armed robbery. (Although considering the massive amounts of antibiotics that farms pump into these birds during the few short months of their lives, a case could possibly be made for drug charges.)

White turkeys with blue sky in background, one looking directly into camera

Second, contrary to popular belief, “pardoned” turkeys don’t actually get to live. They don’t leave prison through Intake and Release, collect their belongings, and go home to their families. Because they’ve been bred, fed, and drugged to grow much larger much more quickly than they ever would in nature, chances are good that they’ll die of heart failure while President Trump is still in office.

Trump will pardon one of two turkeys this year, either “Peas” or “Carrots,” based on a public vote. After the pardoning, both will live at an exhibit at Virginia Tech. Peas and Carrots both weigh in at about 40 pounds and both are at such a high risk of dying before they even make it to the ceremony that handlers will have “backup” pardonees. The life expectancy of those granted clemency is so short that U.S. News & World Report once ran a story with the headline “All of President Obama’s Pardoned Turkeys Are Dead.” (Though we should probably still demand to see the actual death certificate.) Trump pardonees “Wishbone” and “Drumstick” have already died as well.

No, the presidential turkey pardon is merely a meat industry commercial filmed on the White House lawn.

This year’s “lucky” turkeys hail from South Dakota. The man who raised them, Jeff Sveen, is also the chair of the National Turkey Federation. He told People that the birds are lap animals who love to be petted. You know, unlike other turkeys who really just want to go to the slaughterhouse.

turkeys in transport cages

The slaughterhouse is where more than 44 million of these lap animals will be sent for Thanksgiving alone. The social, playful birds, who chirp and cluck along to music, will be strung up and their heads will be shoved into the “killing cone,” which is, unfortunately, not just a metaphor for careers in the White House. Their throats will be slit and they’ll be scalded in the tank of boiling water used for feather removal, just so that they can become centerpieces on holiday tables.

If you’re hoping for a happier ending for all turkeys, including the presidential pardonees, PETA offers this reminder: Everyone has the power to pardon turkeys by keeping them off their tables this Thanksgiving. The turkeys will certainly tweet about it.

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