Turkey Pardons (again)

David Cassuto

In what has become a (quasi) Thanksgiving tradition, I offer these thoughts that I first penned back in 2008, when the blog was new.   

Much has been said about the ritual of Thanksgiving and its accompanying slaughter of hundreds of millions of defenseless birds, most of who lived short lives of unrelenting and abject misery.  I have little to add to what’s already out there except my own indignation and sorrow.

But I do have something to say about the Thanksgiving ritual, particularly the embedded legal contradiction in the practice (discussed by Luis below) of pardoning turkeys.  To pardon means “to release (a person) from further punishment for a crime.”  At Thanksgiving, however, the concept of the pardon gets up-ended.  The turkeys supposedly petitioning for clemency have committed no wrong.  Their lives consist of brutal mistreatment with slaughter soon to follow (the latter, I might add, will occur devoid of any of the protections of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act since under Department of Agriculture regulations, birds are not “animals” and thus not legally entitled to a merciful death).  If anything, egregious crimes have been wrought upon these birds.  Yet, every year, one or two are selected at random and “pardoned.”  This ritual amounts to transferring the guilt of the perpetrators on to the victims and then forgiving a token few of them in a bizarre act of self-absolution by proxy. Continue reading

Turkey Pardons (reprised)

David Cassuto

As I sat down to type some Thanksgiving thoughts, I found myself returning to what I wrote a couple of years ago, back when this blog was first beginning.  I’m still saddened and bewildered by the idea of pardoning turkeys.  And, since not many people read the blog back then, I offer those now two-year old thoughts back up again for your consideration.

Much has been said about the ritual of Thanksgiving and its accompanying slaughter of hundreds of millions of defenseless birds, most of who lived short lives of unrelenting and abject misery. I have little to add to what’s already out there except my own indignation and sorrow. But I do have something to say about the Thanksgiving ritual, particularly the embedded legal contradiction in the practice (discussed by Luis below) of pardoning turkeys.          Continue reading

Talking Turkey and the Sanctimony of American Slaughter

Christine Saenz

It’s that time of year again. A time when 45 million turkeys are slaughtered, stuffed, and feasted upon for Thanksgiving dinners across the U.S. According to PETA and other sources, this 45 million makes up 1/6 of the number of turkeys killed each year in America. While many animal rights groups will be imploring President Obama to pardon all turkeys this season, you shouldn’t have to worry about a protest stampeding across your lawn if you partake in this gluttonous “tradition.” Apparently the protestors and news media outlets will be thoroughly preoccupied with the Hindu Gadhimai festival in Nepal, where, every 5 years, 200,000+ animals are ritualistically sacrificed to bring peace and prosperity to devotees.

Last week, an organizing committee member defending the ritual stated, “We will not stop this centuries-old tradition now. This is our religion, belief and tradition and we will continue with it no matter what.” Sound familiar? The 45 million turkeys slaughtered in the U.S. this year will die in the name of our own time-honored beliefs and traditions. On one end of the world, hundreds of thousands of buffaloes, pigs, sheep, birds, and goats (to name just a few) will have their throats slit by priests and their carcasses distributed to devotees after the festival. In our own country, hundreds of millions of turkeys will live their lives in tightly-packed, windowless “houses,” hung upside down in shackles (alive), mercilessly slaughtered, and decorated on dining room tables.

Continue reading

Turkey Pardons

Much has been said about the ritual of Thanksgiving and its accompanying slaughter of hundreds of millions of defenseless birds, most of who lived short lives of unrelenting and abject misery.  I have little to add to what’s already out there except my own indignation and sorrow.

But I do have something to say about the Thanksgiving ritual, particularly the embedded legal contradiction in the practice (discussed by Luis below) of pardoning turkeys.  To pardon means “to release (a person) from further punishment for a crime.”  At Thanksgiving, however, the concept of the pardon gets up-ended.  The turkeys supposedly petitioning for clemency have committed no wrong.  Their lives consist of brutal mistreatment with slaughter soon to follow (the latter, I might add, will occur devoid of any of the protections of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act since under Department of Agriculture regulations, birds are not “animals” and thus not legally entitled to a merciful death).  If anything, egregious crimes have been wrought upon these birds.  Yet, every year, one or two are selected at random and “pardoned.”  This ritual amounts to transferring the guilt of the perpetrators on to the victims and then forgiving a token few of them in a bizarre act of self-absolution by proxy.

The pardon no doubt is supposed to demonstrate mercy and humor but in my view, it demonstrates neither (case in point: Sarah Palin’s now infamous video ).  It rather reveals a deep societal discomfort with the fact that a holiday that celebrates life’s blessings and an industry devoted to torture and death are conjoined and mutually dependent.

David Cassuto

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