At the Times, Kim Severson has a bizarre and slightly depressing story about turkeys reprieved from their seasonal fate. The stay of execution, it turns out, does not do one much good if one is a commercially bred turkey:
For May and Flower, the two turkeys that received a presidential pardon Tuesday, the adoption rules are less strict and the circumstances more glamorous.Also, on a more dramatically macabre note: attack of the killer jellyfish. . . (Thanks to Wendy for the link.)
The custom of presenting turkeys to the White House is 60 years old, developed as a promotional tool by poultry producers including the National Turkey Federation during the Truman administration. But the formal pardoning program began with the first President Bush in 1989.
Until two years ago, the pardoned turkeys would be sent to Kidwell Farm, a reproduction of a 1930s working farm at Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Va. But in 2005 the Walt Disney Company, sensing an opportunity, offered to take the birds. This year, the two national turkeys — there is always a star and an understudy — spent a night in a Hotel Washington suite (in their kennels, of course), got their pardon and were flown first-class to Walt Disney World in Florida, where they will star as grand marshals in the park’s Thanksgiving Day parade. They will then reside in a live-animal exhibit.
Whether the turkeys come from a shelter or the White House, they don’t live very long. Most adopted turkeys are commercially bred broad-breasted whites, genetically disposed to grow to a marketable size in about four months. Even on a diet of only a couple of cups of turkey feed a day, they become obese. They usually develop leg problems, congestive heart failure and arthritis.
“One just couldn’t get up, so I had to have her euthanized,” Ms. Lane said. “Another one just dropped dead one evening.”
One of the birds pardoned by President Bush last year, Fryer, died this month at Disneyland in California. At the Virginia farm, one pardoned turkey died a day after it arrived, said Judy Pedersen, a public information officer who works for the Fairfax County Park Authority.
“I believe it was one of Clinton’s birds,” she said.
Only Biscuits, one half of the pardoned 2004 duo of Biscuits and Gravy, is still alive, and she’s not doing well enough to be shown to the public, Ms. Pedersen said.
The presidential birds don’t get a big send-off when they die, despite the fanfare accorded them in life.
“They are disposed of,” said Sherrie Rosenblatt, vice president of the National Turkey Federation.