Monday, November 23, 2009

Episode 7 Presidential Turkey Pardon

Episode 7

Presidential Turkey Pardon

Hello and welcome to episode 7, Presidential Turkey Pardon.

That was my second bumper, sent in by Elizabeth Collins. I have a total of 6 bumpers so far, I'll cycle through them at the beginning of each episode. I hope to have at least a further 2 on the way, please, if you are interested in sending me a bumper, I'd love to have you on. You can find out more on my blog, coexisting with nonhuman, or email me,

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching in America. New Zealanders dont celebrate Thanksgiving, I only know about the holiday through television shows and the internet. I wont embarass my lack of knowledge by reading from Wikipedia. I'll sum up my understanding of Thanksgiving as a bunch of family members getting together and eating a lot of pumpkin pie and turkey. The day after Thanksgiving is "black friday", sort of like Boxing day, and large stores have massive sales campaigns featuring Black Friday bargains.

A special White house event happens for Thanksgiving, the American president pardons a turkey or two. There are many rumors of early Turkey Pardons, but the event has only recently became official. Two single turkeys are allowed to live out their natural short lives, after being pardoned by the most powerful person in the world.

In just a few days, President Obama will pardon his first turkeys.

The earliest known unofficial Turkey Pardon is by Abraham Lincoln.
"Late in 1863 a live turkey was sent to the White House for the Lincoln family to feast on during the holidays. Tad Lincoln, age 10, quickly befriended the bird. Tad taught the turkey to follow him as he walked around the White House grounds. The turkey was named Jack, and Tad fed him as a pet. When the time neared to prepare the turkey for the Christmas meal, Tad burst into one of his father's Cabinet meetings. He was crying loudly.  Tad told his dad that Jack was about to be killed, and that he had obtained a temporary delay from the "executioner" so he could put Jack's case before the president. Tad said, "Jack must not be killed; it is wicked." President Lincoln replied, "Jack was sent here to be killed and eaten...I can't help it." Tad, still sobbing, said, "He's a good turkey, and I don't want him killed." Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States of America, paused in the midst of the Cabinet meeting. He took out a card, and on it he wrote an order of reprieve. Jack's life was to be spared, and Tad raced out of the Cabinet meeting to show the presidential order to the "executioner."

Other US Presidents are known to have let a single Turkey to live.
"John F. Kennedy casually spared a turkey on Nov. 19, 1963, just days before his assassination. When given a bird wearing a sign reading, "Good Eatin' Mr. President," Kennedy said, "Let's just keep him." It wasn't an official pardon, says Kennedy archivist Steve Plotkin: "It was probably offhand, purely spontaneous.""

Herbert Walker Bush, father of George Bush, was the first to officially pardon a turkey at thanksgiving.
"The first officially pardoned bird debuted not in 1947 but in 1989 on the first Thanksgiving of George H.W. Bush.
"He will not end up on anyone's dinner table -- not this guy," Bush said. "He's granted a presidential pardon as of right now."

Bill Clinton and George W Bush continued the tradition of pardoning Turkeys. A recent development was letting the US public choose the names of TWO turkeys who were to be pardoned. The second turkey is there in case something happens to the first. Heres a clip featuring George Bush and a Turkey Pardoning.

So, that seems to be the standard Turkey pardon, a bunch of lame jokes about chickens being cowards, and getting in the turkeys face, and saying "ooh, look how lucky you are that im not going to kill and eat you!". Remember, this is the most powerful person in the world, with control over all kinds of military forces, making wisecracks while letting two innocent animals live. I really dont see the point in this Turkey pardon, is it meant to be funny? Are the two spared turkeys meant to be grateful?

Turkeys that George Bush has pardoned have gone on to live at Disneyland. Heres a short clip of the Thanksgiving Parade, that features the turkeys atop a parade float while crowds of people cheer.

Lots of little errors in that silly speech, for example, President Truman has never been proven to have started pardoning Turkeys, George H W Bush is proven to have started the tradition. The parade itself is kinda crazy, its just another fake event at Disneyland. In that clip, two people from the National Turkey Federation are mentioned, and the crowd actually says "yaaaaaa". Why would they be excited to see these two guys, people in charge of turkey dont get me excited.

I'd like to point out that Turkey breeds created for meat have very short lifetimes. They've been bred to grow fast, the turkeys have enormous, unsightly bodies, and their organs simply cannot sustain life for long. Heart attacks are quite common among modern turkeys. Turkeys bred to be eaten can generally only live for a year. For comparison, wild turkeys have been known to live 13 years.

The Presidential Turkey Pardon has became well known enough to be included in The West Wing drama.

I also was curious about why the pardoned turkeys are quite calm, they are not disturbed by cheering people and children patting them. It turns out, months before Thanksgiving, the National Turkey Federation trains a few carefully selected male Turkeys, based on how nice their feathers look etc, and they are trained to be calm around people. They are hand fed and groomed each day, to get them used to human contact. Most turkeys that are bred for meat will look nothing like the pardoned turkeys.

A well known Turkey Pardon was performed by Sarah Palin, in Alaska. In the background as she talks, a rather stupid looking man is seen putting other turkeys upside down into giant funnel cones, to cut their necks. Their blood flows into a trough in the back ground, and several times this farmer man looks into the camera, as if to say "duh is this thing on?" Palin is apparently completely oblivious, she pardons a turkey. Heres a news clip including the video and some explanation.

Isnt this whole Turkey Pardon silly? I dont even get the point, is it to make fun of all the turkeys that DONT get spared? I guess its just a showoff gimmick for the American Turkey Industry. Imagine if Dennis Kucinich, the vegan democrat who ran for presidency had been elected, would he pardon all Turkeys in America? Well, actually Kucinich is a letdown, even with his hot vegan partner, whos half his age I might add, he's publicly promoted free range meat etc. I saw a disappointing video where he declared that all Americans deserve to eat healthy animals that have lived quote "happy" endquote lives. How could any vegan advocate Happy Meat? If I were a person who ate meat, and I saw a vegan politician on television telling the public it was ok to eat meat, Id feel like I was being lied to, being treated as if I were stupid. To see someone promote something they themselves dont practise, its ridiculous. It reminds me of Al Gore promoting Vegetarianism, although Gore himself is not vegetarian. This was made fun of on No Agenda

I have trouble understanding the number of animals killed each year. Using the figure of 56 billion land animals killed annually, theres only about 6 billion people in the world! How many animals does the average person eat each day? And thats keeping in mind that a great number of the worlds population doesnt eat animal products, either because they are not on offer, or because of cost. In any matter, its a huge number of animals killed. The 2008 figures for quote "turkey harvest" are known. I'd like to point out that I live in New Zealand, a country of just four million people, our largest city, Auckland, has just over 1 million citizens. These figures are from "eat", the website of the "National Turkey Federation".

In 2008, more than 273 million turkeys were raised. More than 232 million were consumed in the United States. 22 million at Christmas and 19 million at Easter.

Before I read the Thanksgiving death toll, lets remember that just 2 turkeys are pardoned each year, spared of being killed for their bodies.

For Thanksgiving 2008, an estimated 45 MILLION turkeys were killed.

Thank you for listening.

You can find the script for this episode, as well as downloads for every episode of Coexisting With Nonhuman Animals at coexisting with nonhuman animals .

If you want to contact me, even just to say you listened, send an email to, j a y w o n t d a r t @, I'd appreciate it.

Thank you for listening.


bush turkey pardon

west wing turkey clip

disney turkey parade

lincoln story

1 comment:

  1. Actually, I'm embarassed to be associated from this "turkey pardoning" country. It's all quite ridiculous. The National Turkey Federation was just another way to bail out the turkey farmers by suggesting "patriotism" in bird eating. It's all silly & sad.

    Love the podcast though! ;)


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