Opinion: It's a tough time for turkeys, says St. Lawrence University faculty member
To the Editor:
It is the time of year that I am unfortunately reminded of two articles. The first is “There’s a Grim Reality Behind Your Thanksgiving Turkey” (Los Angeles Times) and the second is “Torture and Terror: Why Thanksgiving Is Tough For Turkeys” by Katie Rucke.Judging from the excessive volume of turkey consumption, most of us have not given much thought to the process of getting a turkey to the center of our dinner tables.
There is a hidden conspiracy regarding our food. We see packaging and commercials with happy farm animals. Our parents, our teachers and most textbooks do not challenge these images.
Dietary guidelines provided by our government promote meat and meat products as primary sources of protein. Do your research to find out which industries influence the nutritional guidelines dispensed by our government. It’s time to learn what really happens to the animals before they end up on our plates.
An article I recently read stated that approximately 99% of turkeys in U.S. grocery stores were raised on a factory farm. The literature consistently states that turkeys are debeaked and detoed shortly after birth without any medications to eliminate the physical damage from fighting that occurs in the overcrowded and unnatural living conditions.
Male turkeys have their snoods removed without medications. The living conditions are so stressful that cannibalism has been reported within factory turkey farms.
A July 2019 article by Martha Rosenberg, “Are Factory Farmers Winning The Antibiotics War?” stated “Antibiotics allow livestock growers to raise animals in unsanitary, confined conditions that would otherwise kill or sicken them.”
Antibiotics also reduce the quantity of feed necessary to raise a turkey and to help them gain weight faster. Many articles have expressed concern about human antibiotic resistance from consuming antibiotics via animals, including turkeys.
Turkeys grow very fast to weights more than twice what they were a few decades ago. Rucke’s article stated “turkeys were bred to grow obese so quickly that the hens were no longer able to mate naturally, and had to be artificially inseminated — a process which involves grabbing hens by their legs, shackling them upside down, and inserting a plastic tube into the bird. These hens will spend their lives being artificially inseminated over and over again.”
The Los Angeles Times stated “Turkeys and so-called broiler chickens … can suffer from painful skeletal disorders and leg deformities. The vast majority spends their short lives in artificially lit, windowless, barren warehouse barns.”
Then they are crammed onto trucks to be shipped to the slaughterhouse. The article states “When it’s time to slaughter them, the live birds are shackled upside down on a conveyor belt, paralyzed by electrified water and then dragged over mechanical throat-cutting blades. The birds are supposed to be stunned unconscious by the electrified water, but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the birds miss the blades and end up tumbling into the tanks of scalding water, where they drown.”
Poultry slaughterhouses in the United States process up to 55 birds per minute. Imagine working in a turkey slaughterhouse, or any slaughterhouse for that matter.
How ironic that we sit around the Thanksgiving table with our family and friends talking about what we are thankful for while a turkey is often in the middle of the table. We are not the only animal that inhabits Earth that has feelings and families. Shame on us for the disconnect.
Faculty member, St. Lawrence University