No crime to gobble


in Law, Politics

In the United States, there is a Presidential tradition of pardoning turkeys. Of course, it is dubious whether the turkeys had committed any capital offenses requiring a pardon beforehand. At least the tiger executed recently in British Columbia had done something that may have been criminal if done by a human. Birds of the genus Meleagris seem guilty of nothing more than being rather unusual looking.

The White House has an official photo gallery of presidents performing the ceremony. I like the shot of Truman. George Bush Senior seems oddly distanced from the proceedings. There is something a bit sick about “representatives of the turkey industry” presenting one bird to be spared in this way, while raising millions more in utterly degraded conditions and slaughtering them. It gives one a bit of insight into why Grant Hadwin wanted to cut down the one tree in B.C. being protected by the logging industry, while they were clear-cutting the rest of the province.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Lee May 31, 2007 at 4:39 pm

Don’t you think this one looks like Gorbachev?

And which one is the turkey here?

R.K. May 31, 2007 at 4:26 pm

Odd looking, indeed.

More videos here

Anon @ Wadh June 1, 2007 at 12:51 am

This shot of Reagan is clearly the most interesting:

Reagan himself overjoyed, and the two other men touching the bird are odd looking animals themselves.

Anon @ Wadh June 1, 2007 at 1:52 am

“Presidents traditionally have granted the National Thanksgiving Turkey a “pardon.” After the presentation, the National Turkey and its alternate will be taken to Disneyland Resort and Theme Park in Anaheim, California to be a part of the holiday display and where they will stay the remainder of their natural lives. Both the turkeys will serve as honorary Grand Marshals for Disneyland’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.”

Milan June 5, 2007 at 12:17 pm

Douglas Adams has a good quotation relating to this:

“We talked about how easy it was to make the mistake of anthropomorphising animals, and projecting our own feelings and perceptions on to them, where they were inappropriate and didn’t fit. We simply had no idea what it was like being an extremely large lizard, and neither for that matter did the lizard, because it was not self-conscious about being an extremely large lizard, it just got on with the business of being one. To react with revulsion to its behaviour was to make the mistake of applying criteria that are only appropriate to the business of being human.”

From “Last Chance to See”

Milan November 15, 2007 at 7:12 pm

From Snopes

Claim: The presidential practice of pardoning a live turkey before Thanksgiving originated with President Harry Truman in 1947.

Status: False.

Origins: Each year, a few days before Thanksgiving, the President of the United States formally pardons a live turkey presented to him by the National Turkey Federation (NTF). Turkey The ceremony has become a White House tradition, one well covered by the press. Of recent years, new stories about the annual bestowment of clemency on the Presidential gobbler have baldly asserted the tradition began in 1947 with President Harry Truman pardoning the first bird.

Lamentably, the press has it wrong. President Truman was neither the first U.S. president to pardon a turkey (he didn’t pardon any of the birds), nor did the modern annual tradition begin with him.

Surprisingly, this tradition which now everyone remembers as having gone on forever apparently began with President George H.W. Bush in 1989. At that year’s Thanksgiving presentation of a bird for the First Family’s table, in his remarks to those assembled, he said, “But let me assure you — and this fine tom turkey — that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table. Not this guy. He’s been granted a presidential pardon as of right now, allowing him to live out his days on a farm not far from here.”

President George H.W. Bush bestowed subsequent poultripital pardons on Thanksgiving birds in each succeeding year of his presidency, thereby establishing the tradition.

The National Turkey and the Alternate National Turkey (in case the national bird can’t fulfill his duties) both receive pardons that spare them from becoming anyone’s dinner and go on to live out their natural lives in petting zoos or on farms. However, those granted such reprieves generally fail to live for long; they usually succumb within a year of their pardons. Fast-growing, commercially raised turkeys tend to expire fairly quickly, as they grow too large for their body structure and are too susceptible to disease.

. November 22, 2007 at 11:22 am

Gobble gobble

Nov 22nd 2007

THANKSGIVING is a happy day for most Americans, but a gloomier one for turkeys. Around 46m birds will be served up at the dinner table says the National Turkey Federation, a trade body. Turkey farmers also have reason for cheer. Americans each scoff 16.9lb (7.7kg) of turkey meat annually, up from 8.3lb in 1975. Production reflects this growing appetite: some 272m turkeys will be raised this year compared with 124m in 1975.

. November 27, 2007 at 10:06 am
. November 21, 2008 at 11:55 am
. November 24, 2008 at 10:36 am

Palin pardon amid turkey butchery

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has issued her traditional Thanksgiving “pardon” for one turkey – while other birds were slaughtered in the background.

. November 25, 2008 at 8:46 am

In Thanksgiving Tradition, Bush Pardons Scooter Libby In Giant Turkey Costume

The pardon assures that Libby will not face any more repercussions for his role in the Valerie Plame scandal or be eaten on Thanksgiving.

. October 7, 2009 at 9:53 am

Guest Post by T. McUrkey
October 7, 2009 by XUP

“Or maybe, if you really want to show how thankful you are about the bounty of the earth and the blessings in your life, why not be a mensch this year and try to think of a meal that doesn’t involve killing anything at all? That would be cool, I think.”

Milan November 25, 2009 at 9:38 am

President Obama has participated in this absurd ritual:

The President pardons two turkeys just before noon. He and First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia participate in a service event in the District later in the day.

After the pardoning, the turkeys will be flown first class to Disneyland Resort in California where they will serve as the grand marshals of the annual Thanksgiving day parade. After the parade, the turkeys will live out their days in the Frontierland section where people can visit them.

Sure, we have millions of these birds living in appalling conditions, waiting to be killed for Thanksgiving dinners – but these two get to fly first class and go live in Disneyland! Disgusting.

. November 25, 2009 at 10:54 am

The majority of turkeys reared for their meat are kept in windowless houses, with some containing up to as many as 25,000 birds. Heating, ventilation and lighting, etc are all automatically controlled with a minimum of 8 hours artificial light allowed each day. The stocking density for broiler-type housing of turkeys is 260cm^2/kg, and as the birds grow and approach slaughter age they become more tightly packed together. Broiler sheds contain flocks of around 10,000 birds housed on litter (usually wood shavings). The litter is not changed during the turkey’s time in the shed and so becomes increasingly covered in the bird’s faeces. Turkeys do not scratch around in the litter in the way that chickens will and this means the condition of the litter deteriorates more quickly. Many turkeys die in these sheds every year, this includes young birds that never learn to reach food and water points (these birds are known as starve-outs). Turkeys reared in pole barns are slightly less densely stocked compared with conventional sheds, (around 410cm²/kg). Pole Barns are large sheds with natural lighting and ventilation. As these are not often purpose built for rearing birds bad ventilation, draughts, exposure and heat stress can all cause problems. Due to a lack of environmental stimulation and overcrowding, aggression and cannibalism are often controlled in these barns by de-beaking . In free-range systems birds are stocked at 10m^2 per bird.

The mutilations turkeys have to endure includes toe cutting, beak trimming (de-beaking) and de-snooding.

. October 26, 2011 at 7:58 pm
. November 21, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Cruel and Unusual: A President’s ‘Pardon’ as Dark Parody

In just a few days, we will once again endure the annual spectacle of the president of the United States pardoning a turkey that would otherwise have been fated for the Thanksgiving table. This event is typically covered in the media as a light-hearted bit of fluff — and fluff is what it might well be, if there were not actual humans on death row awaiting similar intervention. In the current American context, however, the turkey pardon is a distasteful parody of the strange power vested in politicians to decide the earthly fates of death-row prisoners. There is in it an implicit acknowledgment that the killing of these prisoners is a practice that bears real, non-jocular comparison to the ritual slaughter of birds for feasts.

I am not saying that this slaughter of birds for food is wrong ― not here anyway ― but only that the parallel the presidential ritual invites us to notice is revealing. To riff on Dostoyevsky’s famous line about prisoners: you can tell what a nation is like by the way it treats its turkeys. Obama’s pardoning of one randomly selected bird at Thanksgiving not only carries with it an implicit validation of the slaughtering of millions of other turkeys. It also involves an implicit validation of the parallel practice for human beings, in which the occasional death-row inmate is pardoned, or given a stay by the hidden reasoning of an increasingly capricious Supreme Court, even as the majority of condemned prisoners are not so lucky. In this respect, the Thanksgiving pardon is an acknowledgment of the arbitrariness of the system of capital punishment.

. November 28, 2013 at 10:44 pm,34710/

Pope Francis Canonizes Single Turkey In Annual Vatican Tradition

. November 26, 2014 at 9:30 am

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