Soon, President Obama Will Pardon a Thanksgiving Turkey. Then, It Will Die.

All eight of the turkeys the president has pardoned are dead.

President Barack Obama (2nd L) pardons the 2012 National Thanksgiving Turkey Cobbler as daughters Sasha Obama (3rd L) and Malia Obama (R), and National Turkey Federation Chairman Steve Willardsen (L) look on during a Rose Garden event November 21, 2012 at the White House.
National Journal
Matt Berman and Brian Resnick
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Matt Berman Brian Resnick
Nov. 21, 2013, 12:27 p.m.

2012 was a fine year for Cob­bler, the tur­key. Cob­bler, who was raised in Rock­ing­ham County, Vir­gin­ia, was just 19 weeks old when he was named the Na­tion­al Thanks­giv­ing Tur­key, earn­ing him­self a par­don from the pres­id­ent of the United States on Novem­ber 21, 2012.

But Cob­bler didn’t last long. Just months after the passing of his tur­key al­tern­ate, Gob­bler (all pardoned tur­keys have an al­tern­ate), Cob­bler was eu­th­an­ized on Aug. 22, 2013. Like every oth­er tur­key pardoned by Pres­id­ent Obama, Cob­bler and Gob­bler are no longer among the liv­ing. Only one tur­key pardoned by the pres­id­ent has lived to see a second Thanks­giv­ing.

To­mor­row, on the day be­fore Thanks­giv­ing, the pres­id­ent will again par­don a Na­tion­al Thanks­giv­ing Tur­key and its al­tern­ate, this time from Min­nesota. Their names are, ad­or­ably we guess, Pop­corn and Car­a­mel. Car­a­mel, per the White House, is a male with a “quick” gobble who is in­to Lady Gaga. Pop­corn, also a male, has a “proud strut,” a “garbled” gobble, and likes him­self some Bey­once.

Amer­ica gets to choose which of the two gets the title of Na­tion­al Thanks­giv­ing Tur­key. Both will be pardoned. And after that, if his­tory is pre­ced­ent, those tur­keys have two years left at best. 

So what’s the deal? Is Obama cast­ing death spells on these poor birds? Well, no. At least if his pre­de­cessor’s luck with tur­keys is any guide.

John Stos­sel wrote about George W. Bush’s bad luck with Thanks­giv­ing tur­keys for ABC, after Bush made the claim that his two pardoned tur­keys would “live out their days” in com­fort and care. Stos­sel did the journ­al­ist­ic heavy-lift­ing and went to the tur­key farm where Bush sent his pardoned tur­keys. The Vir­gin­ia farm­er told Stos­sel that “we usu­ally just find ‘em and they’re dead.”

A tur­key, pos­sibly con­tem­plat­ing his longev­ity. (Justin Sul­li­van / Getty Im­ages)Like Obama’s tur­keys, the tur­keys pardoned by his pre­de­cessors ten­ded to last only a few months.

So, what’s wrong with our polit­ic­al tur­key class?

A 2010 re­port for the Hu­mane So­ci­ety de­tailed the bur­dens that tur­key eu­gen­ics have wrought on the birds. Simply put, they are not bred for liv­ing, but for eat­ing.

The re­port’s sec­tion on tur­key obesity says that “[f]arm­ing in­terests have trans­formed Ben Frank­lin’s tree-perch­ing ‘Bird of Cour­age’ in­to a flig­ht­less gar­gan­tua bred to grow so fast that today’s com­mer­cially raised tur­keys,” ac­cord­ing to a pre­vi­ous study cited in the re­port, ” ‘are on the verge of struc­tur­al col­lapse.’ ” The ad­ded weight causes de­gen­er­at­ive hip fail­ure and oth­er joint de­form­it­ies.

In fact, they are so fat that without hu­man in­ter­ven­tion, the do­mest­ic­ated tur­key would go ex­tinct. That’s be­cause tur­keys “have been bred for such heavy body weight that they are phys­ic­ally in­cap­able of mat­ing, ne­ces­sit­at­ing artificial in­sem­in­a­tion via tube or syr­inge.”

And like over­weight hu­mans, these obese tur­keys suf­fer and die from heart dis­ease. “Sud­den death as­so­ci­ated with acute heart fail­ure and peri­ren­al hem­or­rhage (bleed­ing around the kid­neys) is a sig­nificant cause of mor­tal­ity for rap­idly grow­ing tur­key toms,” the re­port states.

Flight­less gar­gan­tua. No. De­li­cious flight­less gar­gan­tua.

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