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Hey President! Here’s How You REALLY Pardon A Turkey

Every year, the President of the United States pardons two turkeys from being slaughtered for Thanksgiving.[1] But what most people don’t realize about this supposedly lighthearted tradition is that the majority of pardoned turkeys die within a year of their pardon.[2][3][4][5][6][7] [tweet this]

And in 2016, as in several times before, the two presidential turkeys will come from my state—Iowa.[8][9] [tweet this] Two days ago I was at a turkey slaughterhouse in Iowa, where over 20,000 turkeys a day are killed.[10] They were terrified. Sitting in the cold for hours upon hours. Covered and feces and sores. One with a growth the size of a basketball on her chest. I stayed with them for hours and streamed footage live to the channel to share their stories on the last day of their lives. You can see those videos here

The turkeys we eat are bred to grow very large very fast and are slaughtered at around 18-20 weeks of age. Because they’re so unnaturally large, those with the good fortune of being pardoned die from typically obesity-related complications. And as for where they get to live out the brief remainder of their lives? Destinations have ranged from Disneyland, to Mount Vernon, to this place, and now…here, where the public gets to ogle them in their enclosures.

This extravagant production, run by the lobbyist organization the National Turkey Federation, essentially serves as an extended governmental infomercial for the turkey industry. The Federation’s annual turkey gifting began more or less in 1947 when angry farmers sent crates of live hens to President Truman in protest of his failed “poultryless Thursday” attempt to reduce national meat and egg consumption.

But it doesn’t take a president to pardon a turkey. And as you can see, it’s not much of a reprieve after all. To show you how it’s really done, and shine some light on this dark holiday—founded upon the massacre of an entire people, who still mourn the loss of their families while others gather in celebration with their own.

I want to share with you a story of hope from Rowdy Girl Sanctuary in Texas. [tweet this] The following video was created by the incredible film making team Chee Wei and Alana Tompson.

You’ll hear Rowdy Girl Founder Renee mention FFA, which along with 4-H is pro-farming agricultural youth program, teaching children how to raise, care for and show so-called “food” animals before sending them to slaughter. To hear more about other FFA and 4H survivors, see this video about the residents of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary.

[See the video above for the account of Rowdy Girl's FFA turkey rescue.]

Please share this video this holiday season to show what true compassion looks like and the truth about Thanksgiving. You can use the social links at the bottom of this post and/or the clickable tweets: Hey Obama! | What Happens After?  | What It's Like

See the videos linked below for more about Thanksgiving’s dark history, what turkeys really experience, and to get involved with and support the work of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary.

Subscribe and enable notifications for more vegan truth every week. Now go live vegan, spare a turkey or two, and I’ll see you soon.

see ya next nugget!



★Watch More

Complete Guide To A Vegan Thanksgiving (Recipes, Relatives & More)
The Truth About Thanksgiving
5 Months To Live (A Turkey's Experience)
LIVE At An Iowa Turkey Slaughterhouse

Meet the Residents of Rowdy Girl
Cattle Rancher Goes Vegan [Rowdy Girl’s Founding]

My LIVE Stream from a UK Slaughterhouse
What About Humane?
Why Veganism Is Extreme

The Greatest Lie We Tell Ourselves
Do Animals Grieve?
See Through Their Eyes
What Vegans See
The Justifications We Use

CITATIONS: [bibliography available below citations]

[1] Betty C. Monkman, “Pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey,” WHHA, accessed November 23, 2016,

[2] Domenico Montanaro, “The Strange Truth Behind Presidential Turkey Pardons,”, November 25, 20156:03 AM ET,

[3] Mike Ahlers, “Pardoned Turkey’s Death Untimely? Only to the Naive,” November 21, 2012,

[4] PETA, “Pardon Me? The Grim Fate of The White House Turkeys,” PETA, accessed November 22, 2016,

[5] Lauren Fox, “2010 Turkeys Pardoned By Obama Died This Year,” US News & World Report, accessed November 23, 2016,

[6] Brad Plumer, “The Turkey Pardon Is America’s Most Absurd Holiday Tradition,” Vox, November 24, 2014,

[7] Brad Plumer, “The Turkey Pardon Is America’s Dumbest Tradition,” Washington Post, accessed November 23, 2016,

[8] Lisa Gutierrez, “Here’s How a Pardoned Turkey’s Journey from Iowa to Obama Will Unfold,” Kansascity, November 15, 2016,

[9] Amanda Stone, “President Obama’s Final Turkey Pardon,”, November 21, 2016,

[10] “WEST LIBERTY FOODS, L.L.C.|Company Profile|,” Vault, accessed November 23, 2016,,-llc/company-overview.aspx.

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  1. Calm Storm Cutler on November 23, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    This holiday keeps me on edge with so much warped misconception. I found this article that made my stomach turn and I thought WTF?

    [NPR Post: “Heritage Turkeys Make A Comeback, But To Save Them We Must Eat Them”]

    These creatures supposedly exist because we eat them…what? Good god.
    Anyway, I felt like sharing this dreadful NPR read so that people can see how normalized this is and how hard they push to keep it “ok” in their minds so that they can sleep easy.

    • Emily Barwick on January 5, 2017 at 11:17 pm

      Thank you for sharing and so sorry for the delayed reply and approval!

  2. Getit on November 24, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    I don’t get it. Did they pay $50 for each of those “rescued” turkeys? Because, if that’s the case, I don’t see how that helps. Sure, those 2 individual birds are free, but that action funds the abuser and encourages the business to keep going. Those 2 birds will only be replaced with another 2 birds. That’s the problem I have with paying to save some animals (I can’t see this as “rescuing”). If I missed something and they actually didn’t pay for them, great. Even though I can hardly empathize with the understanding and enabling behavior of the sanctuary lady towards the obese abuser.

    • Emily Barwick on November 29, 2016 at 12:22 pm

      They did not pay for them. It was an open rescue. Paying feeds into the system, as you’ve said.

  3. Ron Landskroner on November 26, 2016 at 7:50 am

    I am a 70-year-old man, having followed a entirely vegetarian/vegan diet for a good number of years and therefore have no argument with this lifestyle choice. However, beginning at a relatively young age (approx. in my 30s), urination frequency became an increasing source of annoyance, at times moderately interfering with daily living. This condition worsened to the point of forcing me to seek the help of urologists which resulted in the usual battery of tests, including those awful invasive procedures which are uncomfortable and quite painful. Despite regular negative PSA results and failed attempts to slow the growth or reduce prostate size the situation became unacceptable at which point my urologist at the time convinced me that surgery was the only remaining option. Therefore, in spite of having been informed of the sexual function side effects only one day before I underwent the now infamous Saline TURP. Unfortunately, the predicted side effect did occur while the urinary problem persisted and does so to this day. This was more than five years ago and I would like to know what, if anything, could have been done to avoid this double bind.

  4. Ron Landskroner on November 26, 2016 at 8:14 am

    This should have been posted in connection with the Dr. Greger video.

  5. Janell Draper on November 30, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    I was just wondering what your opinion is on Adam Ruins everything. [His video on Trophy Hunting] I’m still a little conflicted about the whole thing. I trust your opinion. Thanks.

    • Emily Barwick on January 5, 2017 at 11:39 pm

      SO sorry for the delay! This video is actually on my list. I had it scheduled for last month but had to bump it as my schedule’s been so insane so I was unable to get all the research solid in time. I do hope to get to it soon.

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