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Turkey Farming Gives Us
Thanksgiving Dinner & Club Sandwiches

In turkey farming, as with most farming across the world, food prices either remain stagnant or have declined since World War II, relative to the inflation rate.

Of the 300 million turkeys raised for food in the United States alone, there are about 45 million turkeys bought each year for Thanksgiving turkeys. Supply has outpaced demand in turkey production, so it's now cheaper than ever to buy a Thanksgiving turkey. But, do you really want to?

Even if you aren't a vegan, have you ever taken a minute to think about what kind of quality shortcuts might be taken in turkey production in order to have such a huge excess of supply from turkey farming?

Is Cheaper Food Really Better?

While other consumer goods continue to increase in price, food prices remain low, relatively speaking. According to the USDA, in 1950 Americans spent 22% of their disposable income on food. By 2009, that had fallen to 8.9% of disposable income. In other developed nations, people spend anywhere from 5% to 35% of their income on food.

While on the surface that seems like a huge win; we can spend our money on more important things!, to me it shows that the quality of the food we're eating is declining. Plus, in many of the poorest areas of every city, there are "food desserts," where there is no access to grocery stores or places to eat other than fast food restaurants and convenience stores. The people who really need cheap food the most don't have a way to buy it.

Should we really be proud that we can produce perfectly round, shiny apples that look exactly alike and are as cheap as they were 50 years ago? Does it matter that in order to get those perfect apple shapes, we need to genetically alter the fruit, spray them with huge amounts of fungicides, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, waxes, and anything else that will keep them round and shiny? Does it matter that because consumers are used to selecting only the most perfect, round, shiny fruits, the demand for those chemicals increases, along with the price of the chemicals, and it further squeezes small farmers out of business, making our food industry very close to a monopoly?

What is wrong with apples that are are a little less round, or a little less shiny? Do we really prefer cheap food over high quality food that might cost slightly more?

The Everyday Abuse on Turkey Farms

Turkeys are treated just like the apples I mentioned above; demand requires that they all look the same and weigh as much as possible. Turkey breeding is handled by less than a handful of huge corporate turkey farmers. They supply the entire world with turkeys that are almost genetically identical. So, someone who eats Thanksgiving turkey year after year is eating almost the exact same animal every year.

Just like the apples, farmers give them hormones to make them grow as much as possible. They are not treated like sentient beings, but products that need to be grown for sale.

Because they grow so quickly, they are enormously obese and can't stand up straight, and they die frequently from heart attacks and multiple organ failure, and often other birds die from fright when they see the turkeys near them suffer heart attacks. Their bodies are simply not made to be so fat, but our human demand calls for thick pieces of white flesh.

The turkeys raised on turkey factory farms live amongst thousands of other turkeys, so they're more likely to succumb to stress-related illnesses and tendencies. When they are very young, their toes, beaks, and wattles under their chins are cut off, all without pain relievers.

They never get to engage in their natural truly pastimes of flying, foraging for food, bathing in the dust, cleaning their feathers, roosting, building nests, or caring for their children for at least the first five months of their lives. In fact, turkey farms separate turkey eggs and hatch them in incubators, so turkey parents never see their offspring.

While turkeys in the wild can live to be 10 years old, factored farmed turkeys live only 5 months. Turkey farming creates animals that live short, miserable lives and then are brutally slaughtered for their meat.

You may hope that on free range turkey farms the turkeys have a better life, but in most cases that isn't the case. To be called "free range," the poultry just needs to have access to the outside. Free range turkeys will live in the same barns as regular Thanksgiving turkeys, but that barn will have a tiny hole to a small fenced yard behind the barn. There will be no food or grass in the small yard, so the turkeys will have no incentive to go there. "Free range" is nothing but a marketing term used to prey on compassionate people who have yet to learn the truth.

If The Abused Turkeys Had It Their Way

Turkeys have distinct personalities and enjoy socializing in groups. They love being petted and stroked, and they make songs along to music.

According to the founder of Vegan.com, Erik Marcus, "Turkeys remember your face and they will sit closer to you with each day you revisit. Come back day after day and, before long, a few birds will pick you out as their favorite and they will come running up to you whenever you arrive. It's definitely a matter of the birds choosing you rather than of you choosing the birds. Different birds choose different people."'

If you've never taken time to get to know turkeys or chickens, it's well worth taking a visit to an animal sanctuary or farm. Our dog watcher's neighbors has heritage chickens that walk around the neighborhood pecking around for dandelion greens.

Their feathers are amazingly soft, even more so than the tiny hair on the back of dogs' ears. They'll eat from your hands, and they respond to their names being called, and will rush back over to their pen.

Is that really something we want to eat? A sentient, emotional, intelligent creature that is aware of danger and suffering?

In one newspaper, you can read articles about the Humane Society rescuing dogs, cats, and even horses, but on the next page there might be an article about turkey production going down because the demand is decreasing.

There is a big discrepancy between animals that our society says it's okay to eat and those we ride and pet. The juxtaposition of two articles in one paper about "producing animals" and "saving animals" shows this easily. In the end, they're all living, sentient beings capable of being abused, tortured, and feeling emotions. Why pet one animal and eat the other?

With the rampant abuse of turkey farming throughout the turkey industry, the sick animals it creates, the genetic similarities of each turkey, and the corporations winning over the people in every case, it's time to rethink how we celebrate the holidays.

› Turkey Farming

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