Inspired by Karen Ranzi’s story “ThanksLiving Celebration: Honoring the Life of the Turkey,” I adopted a turkey on November 25 as part of the Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt a Turkey Project. Elsa is the name of the turkey I helped, and this Thanksgiving will be forever special because of my connection to this beautiful bird.
Elsa lives in the Farm Sanctuary’s New York shelter. She is one of 24 turkeys left anonymously at the shelter after being rescued from a factory farm. Her personality is “curious” and “gregarious,” and her favorite foods are cranberries and grapes. I’m sure we’d make fast friends! Concord grapes are to live for! Imagine a world in which we can enjoy a meal with a turkey, not over a turkey.
Launched in 1986, Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt a Turkey Project encourages folks to save a turkey at Thanksgiving through sponsorships that help the Watkins Glen, New York, organization rescue and provide care for these animals at its sanctuaries, according to FarmSanctuary.org. Sponsorships, which cost $30, also fund education and advocacy efforts. Donors receive special e-mail or paper certificates featuring a color photo of their turkey.
About 45 million turkeys are slaughtered each year for Thanksgiving alone, Farm Sanctuary reports. The birds’ path to their end of life involves crowding, with as many as 10,000 birds jammed into a single dust- and ammonia-filled building. Each bird has only as much as 2½ to 4 square feet of floor space for its whole life. This space becomes tighter as each bird grows, and turkeys used for meat are selectively bred to grow “rapidly and excessively,” according to Farm Sanctuary. Indeed, in just four months, they grow to a size three times larger than fully grown wild male turkeys.
Because turkeys are stressed in overcrowded conditions, which cause breathing difficulty and irritated eyes, they are likely to injure one another with their sharp beaks and toes, according to Farm Sanctuary. Factory farm producers cut off parts of turkeys’ beaks and toes.
Lastly, when turkeys reach market weight between 3 and 5 months of age, they are moved to crates and transported to slaughter. “Reports indicate that rough handling during crating inflicts severe injuries such as dislocated hips and wing fractures,” according to Farm Sanctuary. Hundreds of thousands of these majestic, playful creatures die before they reach the slaughterhouse.
Turkeys are lively, social animals, Farm Sanctuary writes. These creatures sometimes travel in groups of as many as 200 turkeys and can recall locations spread over 1,000 acres. Turkeys can maneuver their heads 360 degrees and also make 30 distinct sounds. They are known to forge strong social bonds that can last a lifetime.
Let’s talk turkey: Why not adopt a turkey this year to help it spend the rest of its life happy, healthy and in good company? Which is what many of us are grateful for on Thanksgiving.