The Not-so-thankful Life of a Farm Turkey

“Happy Turkey!”

It’s that time of the year and this is one of the ‘wishes’ that we share with each other during thanksgiving. It’s a great festival where family and friends get together, and more than everything, we get a stretch of holidays both in the USA and in Canada. Thanksgiving also marks the time when the Fall season is nearing its peak and there are leaves in our yards. I love many things about it, but there is one tradition that most of us blind a bat eye to!

Yes, it’s the thanksgiving turkey. It’s quite simple to most of us. We walk to a supermarket, grab a turkey from the freezer, bring it home, thaw it, shove bread into the turkey’s ass, baste it and bake it in the oven. Then, we try our best to stuff ourselves with it and save the rest for the whole week, until we get tired of eating turkey anymore. A whole year goes by and then we do this again, and again, and again…

Photo by Kirk Thornton on Unsplash

When I drive home from work, I sometimes see wild turkeys on the side of the highway, in the grasslands. Turkeys are magnificent birds. The average lifespan of a wild turkey is around 10 years. They can fly well and usually take shelter on branches of trees that are very high.

While male turkeys are bigger and colourful, their droppings are also ‘J’ shaped. Females are smaller and their droppings are usually in a spiral shape. Turkeys are family-oriented and take care of their young very seriously. They protect them from other wild animals and even humans.

“Turkeys remember your face and they will sit closer to you with each day you revisit. Come back day after day and, before long, a few birds will pick you out as their favorite and they will come running up to you whenever you arrive. It’s definitely a matter of the birds choosing you rather than of you choosing the birds. Different birds choose different people.” — Erik Marcus

Just like humans, turkeys have full-colour vision. They are very intelligent birds and are believed to recognize humans. They even choose their favourite people like we do.

The wild turkey population isn’t bad at the moment, but wild turkeys are victims of hunting and are considered to be game birds. If this continues, we could pose a huge threat to their species.

The life of a farm turkey
The life of a farm turkey
Image: Wikimedia Commons

On the other hand, for farm turkeys, earth is hell and humans are the devil. Yes, they get slaughtered in the end, but their life before that is even worse. Farm conditions do not inspire turkeys to breed naturally, so the hens are artificially inseminated with male (tom) semen. This is done using a syringe and the hen lays the eggs. After a few days, the same insemination process is continued again and again for 25 weeks. Then, the female turkey cannot lay eggs anymore and she is slaughtered.

For the young turkey chicks, life in the farm is similar to the picture shown above. Cramped, crowded and living in their own shit, literally! They are debeaked, have their talons removed, and subjected to a lot of torture before they are slaughtered. Animal activists who went to a turkey farm in Alberta, Canada even found that the farmers burnt sick turkeys alive to ‘get rid’ of them.

The turkeys endure this for about 5 months before they are defeathered, slaughtered and frozen to end up on our tables. But that’s not all! See how different farm turkeys look when compared to real turkeys? That’s because they are genetically engineered and bred over the past few decades so that they have more meat and less feathers to be ‘profitable’ to the agriculture industry. A detailed article on the generally accepted procedures of turkey farming is published on Business Insider here.

If I were a farm turkey, I would never be thankful for thanksgiving. And the next time someone says “Happy Turkey” on thanksgiving, I bet that’s false; unless it’s a wild turkey!

Living, learning and inspiring, one quarter mile at a time.

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