PETA is up in arms about the White House turkey pardon tradition, in which the president is presented with two turkeys on the eve of Thanksgiving. One turkey will be chosen to feed the first family at their Thanksgiving feast, the other will be pardoned.
This year, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have called the tradition “sorely outdated” and asked that President Obama choose to feed the first family Tofurkey, instead.
In a letter from the animal rights organization, PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk notes that the tradition “makes light of the mass slaughter of some 46 million gentle, intelligent birds.” The letter goes on to say that the turkey pardon “portrays the United States’ president as being in some sort of business partnership with the turkey-killing industry.”
“You understand so well that African-Americans, women, and members of the LGBT community have been poorly served throughout history,” Newkirk writes, “and now I am asking you to consider other living beings who are ridiculed, belittled, and treated as if their sentience, feelings, and very natures count for nothing.”
PETA spokesperson Ashley Byrne was asked if comparing turkeys to minority Americans was a bit extreme. She said no, noting that turkeys have feelings, too. “Everyone deserves to be free from suffering, and that includes turkeys,” Byrne said.
Newkirk ends the letter: “This year, we encourage you to forgo this event, which so many Americans find offensive, and choose a delicious, healthy Tofurky roast for your family’s holiday table. Thank you for your consideration. We wish you, your family, and all Americans a happy, violence-free Thanksgiving.”
The appeal, according to reports, is unlikely to change Obama’s appointment as poultry judge and jury.
In fact, the American public is invited to participate in the pardon by helping the president choose which of the two nominees — names Cobbler and Gobbler — should be named the 2012 National Thanksgiving Turkey.
The White House website tells the pubic a bit about each bird:
“Born on the same day on a farm in Rockingham Country, Virginia, Cobbler and Gobbler may look alike, but they’re no birds of a feather. Cobbler craves cranberries, is known for his strut, and enjoys the musical stylings of Carly Simon. Gobbler, a patient but proud bird, loves to nibble on corn and enjoys any music with a fiddle.
“Which of two turkeys will be named the 2012 National Thanksgiving Turkey? Go to the White House Facebook page and “Like” and “share” their post to cast your vote. No matter what choice you make, both birds will enjoy a happy life at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens after the ceremony, but only one can be the National Thanksgiving Turkey.”
Being deemed the National Thanksgiving Turkey earns one lucky (unlucky?) bird a spot in the center of the first family’s Thanksgiving table. The pardoned bird, meanwhile, is flown to Disneyland, where it serves as grand marshal for the theme park’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade. It then retires to a life of ease in the park’s Frontier Land.
The turkey pardon celebration is said to date back to 1947, when President Harry Truman received a turkey as a gift from the National Turkey Federation. Although there is no written evidence of this, in 1989 a turkey was officially pardoned by President George H.W. Bush, and the tradition has been on the official White House agenda since then. In 2005, the Disneyland retirement package was added to the deal.
Will you be carving up a bird this year, of going with Tofurkey?