Last week, in an annual tradition at the White House’s North Portico, President Obama pardoned two turkeys, named Liberty and Peace, allowing them to spend the holidays with members of their families back in Minnesota.
But the chances that these turkeys’ brothers and sisters will live to see the holidays aren’t great. Every year, 45 million turkeys are killed at Thanksgiving, plus another 22 million served up for Christmas.
The holidays are even less festive for some turkeys that are sold under the Butterball brand. In a video filmed surreptitiously at five Butterball farms in North Carolina and leaked to the group Mercy for Turkeys, workers are shown kicking and stomping on birds, breaking their fragile wings and necks. The suffering birds, which are denied veterinary attention, are thrown onto the ground on top of other turkeys, or into crates.
It was the Los Angeles-based group’s second investigation into Butterball’s practices in less than a year. After the earlier investigation, two employees plead guilty to cruelty to animals. Butterball is the world’s largest producer of turkey meat.
Butterball officials did not respond to a request for comment. But Butterball is not the only turkey producer with inhumane practices.
According to the animal rights group PETA, the overwhelming majority of turkeys are raised in industrial operations that produce 100,000 birds or more a year in crowded warehouses where they produce massive quantities of waste.
These operations feed the turkeys a steady diet of antibiotics to speed up their growth and help protect them in their crowded, unsanitary living conditions, creating ideal breeding ground for dangerous antibiotic-resistant superbugs that can infect humans.