Open In App Open In App

So, What'S The History Behind The Annual Turkey Pardon?

When it comes to how most of us load our plates up on Thanksgiving, side dishes tend to take up about 99 percent of the space with a little room left next to the cranberry sauce for a slice of turkey. If the host happens to be a genius at roasting the big bird, you might go a little lighter on the stuffing to fit in some light and dark meat.

What could be weirder than naming a whole holiday after — and centering the feast on that holiday around — a type of poultry people only eat once a year? Well, what if on Turkey Day morning, you paraded a live turkey in front of your gathered guests and asked: "Should we kill it and cook it up, or just stick to ham this year?"

That's essentially what happens at The White House during the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation each year. Here's how this unusual Thanksgiving tradition began and why some people think we should just put an end to the fowl farce.

When was the first Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon?

According to official White House history, the first turkey reprieve was granted in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln after “a live turkey had been brought home for the Christmas dinner, but [Lincoln’s son Tad] interceded in behalf of its life ... [Tad’s] plea was admitted and the turkey’s life spared.” Sending holiday turkeys to the White House turned into a tradition and in later years became associated with Thanksgiving — though most presidents ate their gifts (after getting a good photo op, of course). It wasn't until 1963, when President Kennedy remarked, "Let's keep this one going," that sparing the ceremonial sacrificial turkey became the norm. The first to grant a mock presidential pardon was George H.W. Bush in 1989.

What happens to the turkey after it is pardoned?

The turkeys have been sent to live out the remainder of their lives in various greener pastures — from petting zoos; to Virginia Tech, where they were cared for by students of the Department of Animal and Poultry sciences; to Disney World and Disney Land where they again commanded attention as grand marshals of the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Why do some people think turkey pardons should end?

It may sound like a harmless tradition in which the birds go on to lead long, cushy lives. Uh-uh. Though they are groomed for the spotlight, according to this CNN report pardoned turkeys — like the turkeys that will be the center of attention at most Thanksgiving dinners — have been bred for consumption. They are fed in a way meant specifically to increase their size, but their organs and bones are not designed to support that kind of weight. Their life expectancy is just 18 months. Beyond just doing away with the ceremony, animal activists argue that we should just stop eating turkey altogether. Even if you'd never go vegan, you have to admit that from this standpoint, the fake pardon is a grim and ironic way to mark a holiday that celebrates the true blessings you've received throughout the year.

All Comments (0)
About Author
katarina.heinze

katarina.heinze

The journey from model to machinist and everything in between :)

  • 1

    Follower

  • 0

    Following

  • 1706

    Liked

Your Accurate Personal Period Tracker & Ovulation Calculator.

Download Lunar and join us now!

Download Lunar and join us now!