Not just one but two turkeys can breathe easier this Thanksgiving thanks to the official presidential turkey pardon. While other turkeys are busy fearing for their lives (or, more likely, already gracing ovens and tables across the country), Liberty and Peace can go on to live their lives in peace and luxury.
According to the LA Times, the presidential turkey pardon tradition dates back to at least 1989 when President George H.W. Bush (the father, not the son) excused a live turkey from being eaten. Others claim the tradition is even older, dating back to 1963 when John F. Kennedy unofficially pardoned a turkey.
It’s heartwarming to think that on a day of carnage, at least two animals are revered as the majestic creatures they are. One can’t help but feel sad for the thousands, if not millions of other turkeys that gave their lives for the holiday table.
President Obama was accompanied by his daughters Malia and Sasha for the official event. The president joked that this was another action that didn’t need congressional approval – a reference to recent events he took to try jump-starting the economy. “We can’t wait to pardon these turkeys!” are the enthusiastic words the president uttered, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Liberty and Peace were chosen from a flock of turkeys raised by high school students in Montana. Reuters notes that only Liberty was trained for the day’s events by the students to prepare them for the noise and commotion caused by the press. In addition to de-sensitivity training for loud noises and flash bulbs, the turkeys underwent more training for the big day. “They also received the most important part of their media training, which involves learning how to gobble without really saying anything,” joked the president.
The news of Liberty and Peace’s pardons are bittersweet. On one hand, two birds were humanized and given a reprieve from death. On the other, plenty more birds (and pigs and countless other animals) die in preparation for the holidays. Not every animal has the luxury of being treated well – not every turkey is raised on a rural farm and cared for by attentive high school students. Many turkeys bred and raised for holiday feasts are subject to inadequate housing, cruel practices and less than quick deaths.
The lucky recipients of the presidential turkey pardon will go on to live out the rest of their days at Mount Vernon, the historic home of George Washington. It’s not clear what the lap of luxury looks like for turkeys, but one can presume it involves premium food and the freedom from cruel and inhumane conditions that many factory-farmed turkeys are subject to.
Still another concern is that these two turkeys could have possibly gone to needy families. According to Reuters, the First Family visited a food bank for thanksgiving. President Obama is quoted as saying they brought two “unnamed turkeys who weren’t so lucky” with them. Really? Just two turkeys?