Obama Pardons Turkeys…Then They Die

Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

They may have avoided the Thanksgiving dinner table, but it turns out the turkeys pardoned by President Obama haven't been so lucky after all.

Last year, the president ceremoniously spared Cobbler and his alternate Gobbler, two 40-pound birds from Rockingham Country, Va., sending them off to live a charmed life on a sprawling historic estate.

"From here these two lucky birds will be swept up in a whirlwind of fame and fortune that will ultimately lead them to Mount Vernon, where they will spend their twilight years in the storied home of George Washington," Obama said at last year's ceremony.

But their freedom was short lived.

Cobbler, who, according to the White House, loved cranberries and the musical stylings of Carly Simon, was reportedly euthanized in August. And Gobbler, described as "a patient but proud bird," passed suddenly in February.

In fact, all eight of the birds pardoned by Obama have reportedly moved on to greener pastures.

To be fair, the average turkey lifespan is roughly three to four years and Obama is not the first president with a poor track record in this department.

In 2001, ABC's John Stossel visited the farm where the saved birds had been sent to live out their golden years and found the turkey pen empty.

"We usually just find 'em and they're dead," the farmer told him, before explaining that the birds are bred for eating and not retirement.

"Their flesh has grown so fast, and their heart and their bones and their other organs can't catch up," he explained.

The somewhat misleading tradition of sparing turkeys dates back to 1963, when President Kennedy sent that year's gift from the National Turkey Federation back to the farm, declaring "we'll just let this one grow." President George H.W. Bush was the first to grant a turkey an official presidential pardon in 1989.

President Obama will continue the tradition next Wednesday, when he will grant two more turkeys their freedom.

Hopefully, they'll have better luck than their predecessors.