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Monday, November 24, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving - 3 Days Left!

Today I'm going to pass on some sad facts about the way turkeys are raised and consumed in our society. Most of this information comes from Farm Sanctuary.

Life on a factory farm is miserable for turkeys. Crowded inside dark, filthy warehouses by the thousands, commercially bred turkeys are treated like unfeeling commodities and denied the very basics of a natural life.

They are bred to reach a crippling weight at an unnaturally fast rate. They are de-beaked and de-toed without anesthetic*, which places them at risk for disease and infection. They are plagued by constant stress and physical debilitation. Selectively bred to grow abnormally large breasts, they can no longer reproduce naturally, meaning that all commercial turkeys are bred through aritificial insemination. (How would you like to have the job of stimulating male turkeys and collecting their semen? Fun stuff.) These sentient creatures suffer immensely before being sent to the slaughterhouse at just 14-18 weeks of age.

* Cutting off the tips of beaks (and obviously toes) is nothing like trimming a fingernail. Turkeys and other birds have nerve endings in their beaks and toes, and these cruel procedures cause severe pain.

Between 250 and 300 million turkeys are raised for slaughter in the United States every year - more than 45 million for Thanksgiving alone.

For the tiny percentage of factory farmed turkeys lucky enough to find refuge at a sanctuary, life still holds many challenges. Because they have been bred to put on so much weight so quickly, it's important for sanctuaries to manage the turkeys' weight carefully. Commercial breeders only intend for these birds to live for a couple of months; when they are allowed to live longer, they tend to grow unnaturally large with disproportionately big breasts. Foot and leg problems are common due to the excess weight on their skeletal structures as well as the common factory farm practice of de-toeing. De-beaking is also the norm, which poses problems for many turkeys at feeding time. Their mutilated beaks make it difficult for them to eat normally and without pain.

If you're reading all of this and thinking to yourself, 'Thank goodness none of this applies to me - I buy only free-range, organic meat products!' - well, I hate to burst your bubble, but you're just plain wrong. Out of increasing awareness and public concern about animal suffering, some consumers are turning toward so-called 'free-range,' 'organic,' or 'natural' turkey this holiday season. Unfortunately, although their hearts may be in the right place these labels are deceptive and do not equal humane. Thanksgiving shoppers buying these alternative turkeys have no way of knowing just how 'natural' a life these birds actually led before being slaughtered and labels such as 'free-range' and 'organic' are notoriously poorly monitored and enforced. All turkeys, whether conventional or 'free-range', are subjected to inhumane treatment, and ultimately their lives are ended painfully and prematurely.

I don't know about you, but I don't see how participation in any aspect of this dispicable industry can in good conscience be incorporated into a celebration purported to celebrate thankfulness and friendship.

If you'd like to learn more about factory farming, please check out

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