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Ever since 1987, the President of the United States has staged a ceremonial turkey pardon prior to Thanksgiving. At the (pretty odd) ritual, one special turkey is granted immunity from the season’s slaughter of birds for holiday tables; an end that USDA estimates suggest some 46 million turkeys met last year.
Once the turkeys receive their presidential pardons, many end up going back to farms, or might end up in petting zoos or other facilities – but they do not customarily go to animal sanctuaries that specialize in caring for them. This year, Farm Sanctuary and a group of celebrities including Billie Eilish and her mother Maggie Baird, Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Ricky Gervais, and Alan Cumming, are asking the White House to turn the bird over to Farm Sanctuary’s care.
“Farm Sanctuary has rescued thousands of animals — and if you host a presidential turkey pardoning this year, we hope you’ll allow the birds to come live at Farm Sanctuary,” reads an open letter to President Biden on the organization’s website. “Animals receive quality care from experienced caregiving teams at our sanctuaries in California and New York, and they are allowed to live out their lives in peace and safety. Modern turkeys have been genetically altered to grow exceptionally fast and large and they require specialized attention, which birds pardoned by previous presidents haven’t received.”
For members of the public who want to support the request, the petition letter has a form where you can add your name to the list of backers, and Farm Sanctuary is accepting financial donations for its ongoing “adopt a turkey” initiative.