December 7, 2021

Green Industry

Joaquin Phoenix, Billie Eilish Join Call To Send Pardoned Turkeys To Sanctuary


A flock of celebrities ― including the famously vegan Billie Eilish, Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix ― have added their names to a petition asking President Joe Biden to send this year’s “pardoned” Thanksgiving turkeys to an animal sanctuary.

“We have petitioned past presidents to release the pardoned turkeys to one of [our] sanctuaries with no success, so this year we’re hoping that having so many high-profile celebrities also making the request will help bring attention to the issue and help make it happen,” Farm Sanctuary spokesperson Meredith Turner-Smith told HuffPost in an email.

Joaquin Phoenix (left) and Celeborn, a turkey living at Farm Sanctuary.
Joaquin Phoenix (left) and Celeborn, a turkey living at Farm Sanctuary.

Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP and Denise McCarthy/Farm Sanctuary

The nonprofit runs a sanctuary in New York state and one in California for animals like pigs, cows, chickens, sheep and of course, turkeys. The organization says it can offer a better home than petting zoos or college poultry science departments, where it maintains they are “likely not cared for as individuals with unique personalities, emotions, needs, and preferences.”

Celebs who signed on also include Margaret Cho, Ricky Gervais, Natasha Lyonne and Dave Bautista, who recently made headlines after vowing to find the person who abused a puppy before the actor adopted her.

What most people now call the “turkey pardon” is technically named the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation, which dates back to 1947 as a ceremony involving the poultry industry giving two turkeys to the presidential family.

First lady Melania Trump (right), President Donald Trump and Corn the turkey at the 2020 turkey pardon.
First lady Melania Trump (right), President Donald Trump and Corn the turkey at the 2020 turkey pardon.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Sometimes the birds were eaten, and other times presidents or first ladies would send them to farms or children’s attractions. But the modern turkey pardon people recognize today officially started under George H.W. Bush, who in 1989 announced during the presentation that the “fine tom turkey” was “presented a presidential pardon as of right now.”

President George H.W. Bush and Shannon Duffy, 8, of Fairfax, Virginia, with a turkey at the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. This turkey ultimately went to Frying Pan Park in Virginia.
President George H.W. Bush and Shannon Duffy, 8, of Fairfax, Virginia, with a turkey at the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. This turkey ultimately went to Frying Pan Park in Virginia.

AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander

Since then, pardonee destinations have included farms, zoos, educational institutions, George Washington’s Mount Vernon and even Disney World and Disneyland. Their remaining lifespans are often short, with many dying within a few months to a year later. (Though last year’s turkeys, Corn and Cob, are still alive and gobbling at Iowa State University.) A big issue is that modern turkeys are bred to put on a huge amount of weight quickly, which takes a major toll on their health.

To help deal with that problem, Farm Sanctuary gives its turkeys a low-fat, high-fiber diet, its president, Gene Baur, told The Atlantic during a prior plea to take the turkeys back in 2009. However, they do get one big cheat day every year when they can cut loose and feast ― Thanksgiving.





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