President Obama Urged to Reflect Americans’ Growing Animal Welfare Concerns by Sending Pardoned Thanksgiving Turkeys to Farm Sanctuary

For the third straight year, Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization, is petitioning the White House to send the two turkeys pardoned at Thanksgiving to their world-class shelter in Watkins Glen, New York, instead of to a Disney theme park, where many have died within just one year. The petition asserts that the shelter is uniquely equipped to provide the expert care necessary for the health, comfort and longevity of these birds. 

“We are offering the Obama administration an opportunity to distinguish themselves from past administrations by starting a new, compassionate Thanksgiving tradition that is more in-step with Americans’ growing concern about the welfare of animals raised for food,” says Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary. “By sending the pardoned birds to Farm Sanctuary’s renowned shelter in Watkins Glen, N.Y., the Obama Administration can show that it cares about the humane treatment of animals, and ensure that the turkeys get the expert care they need to thrive.” 

For more than 40 years, the president of the United States has upheld an annual tradition of pardoning turkeys once intended for slaughter around the Thanksgiving holiday. Sadly, despite the gesture of compassion, the good fortune of these birds doesn’t always last very long. 

Commercially-raised turkeys like those pardoned by the president are selectively bred to grow extremely large and fast, painfully de-beaked and de-toed, raised in crowded, filthy conditions, and fed diets designed to make them gain more weight. As a result, these birds are prone to serious health issues and require special care to thrive. 

At Farm Sanctuary’s shelters, where turkeys live an average of four to five years, the birds’ weight is carefully monitored and controlled with a high-fiber feed. They have access to top-of-the line veterinary care, living environments designed specifically for their comfort, and the attention of trained caregivers. 

“After decades of selective breeding, commercially-raised turkeys are prone to serious health issues and require experienced care and attention to live healthy and comfortable lives,” states Farm Sanctuary’s petition. “At Disney theme parks, which have been entrusted with the care of pardoned turkeys since 2005, many of the turkeys have died within one year. At Farm Sanctuary, these birds can live happily and comfortably for many years.” 

Farm Sanctuary has been rescuing and rehabilitating turkeys for more than two decades. Since 1986, the organization’s Adopt-A-Turkey Project has saved the lives of more than 1,000 turkeys and educated millions of people about the cruelty they endure on factory farms. This year’s Adopt-A-Turkey spokesperson is talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres.

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