Pardon factory farmed turkeys this Christmas

30 November 2010

President Obama has given two turkeys a new lease of life and you can do the same by pardoning factory farmed turkey.

American tradition

Two turkeys named Apple and Cider got a new lease of life on Wednesday 24 November 2010 when President Obama pardoned them at the White House in the 63rd anniversary of the national Thanksgiving turkey presentation.

Watch the full video of the pardoning on CNN >>

The two birds will head to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens for a Christmas display and then live out their days in a specially built enclosure, the White House statement said:

Turkey farming today

Apple and Cider are exceptions as the majority of over 640 million turkeys reared for meat worldwide every year are kept in industrial systems.

Like meat chickens, intensively reared turkeys have been bred to grow much faster and with more breast meat than traditional turkeys. This has led to serious welfare problems such as higher rates of lameness and heart disease compared to slower growing breeds.  Turkeys are typically reared in windowless, barren sheds, containing thousands of birds.

Welfare at risk

Overcrowding means turkeys have increasingly limited space to move as they grow larger. Turkeys confined in overcrowded sheds cannot change their position to avoid heat, cold or dirt. When the litter becomes wet, it gives off ammonia which can cause breast blisters, eye and respiratory problems and painful foot sores.

Lameness and respiratory problems are just a few of the other welfare issues that turkeys face in factory farms.

Your choice

With Christmas just around the corner, soon it will be time to choose your Christmas dinner and there are many higher welfare options.

Top 3 ways to help if buying turkey

  • Buy organic or free-range turkey. If buying indoor turkey, buy higher welfare indoor turkey such as RSPCA Freedom Food (check the label to find out)
  • Request only organic or free-range turkey in restaurants
  • Speak to the manager of your local supermarket and request that they stock only higher welfare turkey

Compassion in World Farming believes that Western societies reducing their meat and dairy consumption is also a positive way of helping ensure greater food sustainability. If you've been inspired by President Obama's pardoning there is also the option of sparing a turkey yourself this Christmas by choosing a vegetarian equivalent.

What else can be done?

  • Encourage friends and family to buy organic, free-range or higher welfare indoor turkey
  • Check the content of ready meals and turkey products. Buy products that contain free-range or organic turkey. Ask your local retailer to stock products containing higher welfare turkey
  • Contact your local newspaper, radio and TV station and ask them to carry a feature on turkey welfare - email the media team for details
  • Download the Good Food Shopping Guide
  • Join Compassion in World Farming with a monthly gift or donation to support our work.

Find out more about the labels to look for when shopping for turkey >>

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