It’s a White House tradition with a century and a half of history behind it, but PETA is asking the White House to skip it this year.
Tomorrow President Obama is set to pardon two turkeys – Cobbler and Gobbler – just as every president since George H. W. Bush has. The tradition finds its roots in a moment of sympathy Abe Lincoln’s son, Tad, had for their table’s turkey back in the 1860s.
Now Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says the turkey pardon has got to go.
“It makes light of the mass slaughter of some 46 million gentle, intelligent birds and portrays the United States’ president as being in some sort of business partnership with the turkey-killing industry,” Newkirk wrote in a letter sent to President Obama today. “Turkeys do not need to be ‘pardoned’—they are not guilty of anything other than being born into a world of prejudice. They are innocents who should be respected for who they are: good mothers, smart birds, and interesting animals.”
“You understand so well that African-Americans, women, and members of the LGBT community have been poorly served throughout history,” Newkirk writes, “and now I am asking you to consider other living beings who are ridiculed, belittled, and treated as if their sentience, feelings, and very natures count for nothing.”
Those are turkeys she’s talking about.
When asked if the comparison of turkeys with minority Americans was a little extreme, PETA spokesperson Ashley Byrne answered that turkeys feel pain and fear, just like humans.
“Everyone deserves to be free from suffering, and that includes turkeys,” Byrne said.
So will the White House forego the fowl tradition and opt for Tofurkey? Not likely.
Byrne said this Thanksgiving gives Obama a new opportunity to connect with his constituency and go vegan like another Democratic president – Bill Clinton - who gave up his beloved hamburgers, all meat in fact, for health reasons after leaving office.
“With more Americans than ever cutting meat out of their diets, we hope that the president could see this as a way to get with the times,” Byrne said.