The White House wants you, America, to decide which of two turkeys President Barack Obama crowns the “National Thanksgiving Turkey.” Both turkeys — named Caramel and Popcorn — are getting presidential pardons Wednesday morning, so online voters aren’t picking which bird dies and which bird lives. The reality is actually worse: Both Caramel and Popcorn will soon die regardless of the public’s vote.
Sadly for Caramel and Popcorn, turkeys destined for Thanksgiving tables just aren’t meant to enjoy long lives. Mealtime turkeys are bred to be about 20 pounds larger than their average wild brethren, making it difficult for them to move about or reproduce and causing other health complications if their dinnertime destiny is denied. Some turkeys blessed with a presidential pardon don’t even make it to their next Thanksgiving; others survive just a bit longer.
From Huffington Post last year:
Turkeys so fattened for consumption live only a fraction of the 12-year live span of their wild relatives. Peggy Albertson, spokeswoman for the National Turkey Federation, which raises a flock of birds for the presidential pardon each year, said these birds are expected to survive about two years if they don’t end up on a Thanksgiving table.
Obama, then, isn’t saving these birds by sending them to a farm in Mount Vernon. Instead, he’s setting them up for a slightly longer lifetime of misery, a move made even crueler by naming them after food. Caramel and Popcorn have always been meant to be meals, not to play a part in a bizarre Washington ritual made even stranger through social media. The truly humane thing to do would be to stick a fork in them both.
History offers little reason to keep sentencing turkeys to lives of agony: The president’s only been pardoning turkeys for 24 years, according to the White House. Before that, the first family happily gobbled down turkeys presented to them as gifts. So let Caramel and Popcorn die with dignity. In fact, bestow upon them the highest of Thanksgiving turkey honors: Filling the presidential belly.