PETA Says ISU Is About to Undo Trump’s Turkey Pardons

For Immediate Release:
November 24, 2020

Megan Wiltsie 202-483-7382

Ames, Iowa

Alarmed by news that the turkeys “pardoned” by President Donald Trump are to end up at Iowa State University (ISU), PETA sent a letter this morning to Dr. Dan Thomson, chair of ISU’s Department of Animal Science, urging him to send the birds to an accredited farmed-animal sanctuary instead of exploiting them.

“Using these smart, sensitive birds as teaching tools would undermine the turkey pardon,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA is asking ISU to send the message that the most vulnerable among us matter by giving these turkeys a peaceful retirement.”

More than 46 million turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving alone, and most of them are just babies—less than 26 weeks old—when they’re hung upside down, their throats are slit, and they’re dumped into scalding-hot defeathering tanks in slaughterhouses, where workers face rampant COVID-19 infections. PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat” and which opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview—encourages everyone to practice compassion by celebrating the holiday with a delicious vegan feast.

For more information, visit or follow the group on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Thomson follows.

November 24, 2020

Dan Thomson, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair

Department of Animal Science

Iowa State University

Dear Dr. Thomson:

I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and our more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide in response to reports that the turkeys pardoned by President Donald J. Trump this year will live the rest of their lives—which I doubt will be too long—on public display on Iowa State University’s animal science farms and be used as teaching tools. We urge you to send these sentient individuals to an accredited farmed-animal sanctuary instead, where they would be able to live out their days in peace.

Turkeys have been known to enjoy clucking along to music and love to have their feathers stroked, and Benjamin Franklin wanted to make them our national bird. These smart, sensitive birds deserve consideration, such as they are getting from the pardon. However, the bigger issue involves more than these two birds. I realize that your whole career has been built on treating animals as mere commodities, fattening them up so that they have difficulty carrying their own weight and then sometimes suffer heart attacks or are sent on a frightening journey to a slaughterhouse. However, times are changing and exceptions can be made, too.

Many people have been horrified by exposés of factory farming, the way slaughterhouses have become COVID-19 hotspots, and the attempts to keep whistleblowers from telling the truth by passing “ag-gag” laws. They are upset by the filth and the cruelty and are coming to realize that raising animals to be slaughtered for food is unnecessary and an extraordinary waste of resources that results in needless suffering and death as well as massive greenhouse-gas emissions that are causing climate change. In fact, meat production has had such a devastating effect on all aspects of our environment that the Union of Concerned Scientists lists it as the second-biggest environmental hazard facing the Earth. Recent studies show that eliminating animal products can reduce a person’s food carbon footprint by 73%.

As many of us are adjusting to socially distant holiday celebrations, we should take time to reflect on the way we got here. The public-health risks associated with consuming animals are serious. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 75% of recently emerged infectious diseases in humans began in other animals. In addition to COVID-19, deadly outbreaks of swine flu (which originated on U.S. pig farms), avian flu, mad cow disease, SARS, and other zoonotic diseases have resulted from using animals for food. As long as we continue promoting industries that breed animals, confining them in their own filth, and slaughtering them, it’s not a matter of if another pandemic will occur but when.

The number of American vegans has skyrocketed by 600% since 2014. COVID-19 drove the sales of vegan meat up by 200% by mid-April, and 35% of Gen Z aims to be meat-free by 2021. Therefore, it makes sense to promote vegan food industries rather than factory farming and to send these turkeys to a reputable sanctuary, where they will be safe and happy for the rest of their lives. You have the opportunity to send the message that the lives of the most vulnerable among us are valuable, and we truly hope you will make the compassionate choice.

I’d be happy to help you find placement for these birds and cover all the costs of relocation. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid E. Newkirk


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