Since John F. Kennedy in 1963, each year the president has saved a turkey from becoming dinner and sent it to live out its days on a countryside farm. This merciful gesture, however, is not without consequence. When the crowds go away and the birds are sent off to live out their lives in rural bliss, their freedom comes at a price. This price being a peace of mind. They get to live while thousands of their brethren are sacrificed to our feast of thanks.
Many of these supposedly lucky fowl are left wondering what they had done in order to deserve their salvation when plenty of others weren’t as fortunate. As a result, out of the spotlight, many of these turkeys fall deeply depressed due to the symptoms of survivors guilt. In order to better understand the plight of these turkeys and their thoughts surrounding this American tradition, I sat down with one of last year’s pardoned turkeys, Cheese. Cheese now spends his time as a turkey’s rights advocate and author writing on similar issues. His most recent book, Get Stuffed: A Pardoned Turkey Speaks Out, will be out in paperback in time for the holiday season. Here is an excerpt from this soon-to-be best seller:
It was with a few weeks to go before Thanksgiving that my fate first began to diverge from the others. It was a cool morning when the farmer came out to the pen and called my name, “Cheese, get over here!” he said. As I waddled over under the enormous weight of my inflated breasts, I had no idea what to expect.
It was then that he told me he had entered me into the Presidential Turkey Pardon Competition because he liked me the best out of our entire sad little flock. I was stunned and didn’t know what to say. He fluffed me up and took some pictures for the competition and then, still bewildered, I walked back.
The next weeks went by in a blur and then I was told I had been made one of two finalists, and that the winner would be decided via a Twitter competition. Fortunately that good-for-nothing, soft-on-farm-animals and complete mockery of a president couldn’t bring himself to send one of us to our death and we both got to live.
It wasn’t until a while afterwards, when I had settled into life on my new farm, that I finally slowed down long enough to reflect. I had been pardoned. But what did it even mean to be pardoned? The assumption of a pardon is that the recipient is guilty of something. But what? Are all turkey’s in this nation guilty, doomed to receive the death penalty until proven innocent? Is their inherent existence some kind of threat to supposedly ubiquitous American values?
This day marked the beginning of my questioning of the world around me and my place within it, and from then on nothing was the same. But in the midst of my pondering, a deep sadness permeated. For a while I had foregone death, however, my feathered comrades were not so lucky. While I got to live my life out in relative peace, my loved ones had been split up into dark and light meat, reheated as leftovers and even made into sandwiches. What good was my living if it wasn’t to be spent living with anyone I cared for?
The first few months after my sham of a pardoning at the hands of Barack Obama were some of the darkest days of my life. My sadness now has turned to anger, and that anger turned to hashtag activism (#YESALLTURKEYS). I may never truly know why I am here and why all others have been sacrificed as food to the masses, but I can make the most of this chance I never should’ve had. My life is now in dedication to the many turkeys that have passed and the many more that will continue to.
This is my tale, and my legacy is now no longer mine alone. The system must be broken. The turkey-industrial complex must be subverted (#FREETHEBREASTMEAT).