Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The truth about turkeys

(photo courtesy of

For years I've been writing about how much I love wild turkeys, and when I watched a NATURE episode called "My Life as a Turkey," I felt like I had found my twin in writer and naturalist Joe Hutto ― he feels the same way I do! This exceptional film recreates his amazing and emotional adventure raising 16 wild turkey babies or poults. However, in recreating the experience Hutto had with the birds, I do wish that the producers had refrained from recreating a scene of a poult being swallowed by a rat snake. That was hard to watch.

Hutto does wild turkeys a great service by showing how intelligent, creative, sensitive and resilient they are. He understands what wonderful and soulful companions they can be. I continue to feel blessed to live with a flock of wild turkeys and I share Hutto's reverence, respect and admiration for these wonderful birds.

I hope that those who see "My Life as a Turkey" will be enlightened and moved to think differently about wild turkeys. I also hope the film will give people pause to think about domesticated turkeys that are raised for food. The great majority lead miserable lives, forced to endure needless and unimaginable suffering on factory farms. As I watched the adorable poults in "My Life as a Turkey," I could not help but think of the millions of domestic poults that begin their innocent lives mutilated and abused.

Why haven't you heard more about this? Because factory farms are deliberately operated out of public sight. The farmers who engage in this "agribusiness" are secretive because they have so much to hide. Their focus is on profits, not on providing humane and respectful care for sentient creatures. The truth is that the majority of Thanksgiving turkeys that end up on your dinner table live and die in inhumane warehouses not fit for any living being.

Turkeys are not the only animals "produced" on factory farms. Chickens, pigs, cows, ducks and geese are also "mass produced" on factory farms and never see the outside world, never feel the sun or touch grass. The practices employed in raising them are cruel; their lives are brutal and short. Factory farmed animals are heavily dosed with antibiotics (because they are kept in such overcrowded conditions and disease spreads quickly) and fed diets laden with unhealthy additives.

As we look forward to this Thanksgiving holiday, please do what you can to increase awareness of these practices so we can end the suffering of turkeys and other farm animals. Refuse to support these practices by purchasing only humanely raised and organic foods. Or, go vegetarian. Inform yourself by reading about, and if you can, supporting organizations that respect animals and are working tirelessly to stop factory farming and end this unnecessary suffering. To learn more, visit Farm Sanctuary and Mercy for Animals.

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