Speaking of tough and bitter — again, not to ruin anyone’s appetite — the Alternet article offer a rather interesting look at turkeys from someone who developed a kind of bond with them, after meeting a few at an animal sanctuary and discovering alternatives to traditional Thanksgiving fare. There’s a video too, after the jump, but I’d recommend waiting until well after dinner to watch it.
But the Alternet article is inoffensive enough to read before dinner.
Turkeys love to be caressed, and people often remark that they respond just like their own dogs and cats. Turkeys even make a purring sound when they are content, and not until you’ve had a hen fall asleep under your arm have you lived. She will literally melt under your touch, relax her body, and begin to close her eyes, softly clucking all the while. It’s a sight to see, and I’m moved every time I have the privilege to witness it.
Some turkeys are more affectionate than others, climbing into your lap and making themselves as comfortable as can be. At an animal sanctuary I frequent, a particularly friendly turkey became known for her propensity to hug. As soon as you crouched down, she would run over to you, press her body against yours, and crane her head over your shoulders, clucking all the while. It’s amazing how so generous a hug can be given by something with no arms.
They’re not all saints, but some are heroes. One turkey became my personal protector when I was trying to clean a barn and was continually accosted by a particularly rude and aggressive bird. Each time the aggressor would begin to close in on me, my hero would waddle over and get between me and his barn-mate. It was remarkable, and it happened over and over (turkeys are very persistent). What made this scene even more touching was the fact that these toms suffered from bumble foot, abscesses on the footpads that resemble corns, a common occurrence in domesticated turkeys. Between their grotesquely large breasts and inflamed feet, turkeys walk very awkwardly and with a lot of effort. I was very touched that such an effort was made on my behalf.
More about domesticated turkeys comes via Compassion Over Killing, my favorite vegetarian/animal-rights organization. Their latest email arrived in my inbox last night, and featured this glimpse into the factory farming of turkeys.
While employed at a North Carolina turkey hatchery that now supplies Butterball, a COK investigator documented the conditions forced upon newly-hatched chicks. As the investigation video shows, from the moment they’re hatched, these turkeys are submerged into a world of misery. Dumped out of metal trays and jostled onto conveyor belts after being mechanically separated from cracked egg shells, the newly-hatched turkeys are tossed around like inanimate objects—they are sorted, sexed, de-beaked, de-toed, and in some cases de-snooded before they are packed up and shipped off to a “grow out” confinement facility.
The video further reveals that not all chicks survive this harsh process. Countless chicks become mangled from the machinery, suffocated in plastic bags, or deemed “surplus” and dumped (along with injured chicks) into the same disposal system as the discarded egg shells they were separated from hours earlier.
There’s also this video. (Again, might not be the best viewing too before or after dinner.)
Unfortunately, free-range may not be all it’s cracked up to be either, if this farm tour is any indication. (Talk to the UDSA about that.) Fortunately, if you’re interested, COK offers some vegetarian alternatives to turkey.