Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Talking Turkey

Forty-five million turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving. There are still wild turkeys in the United States. I have over 40 that live on or come by my land every day. It makes me sad to think of the farmed birds when you have seen them free in their natural environment. Wild turkeys are actually very handsome, with black wing and tail feathers that shimmer red-green and copper, contrasting with their white wing bars – nothing like the all-white, broad-breasted, meat strains bred in our farms today. Wild turkeys enjoy roosting in trees, but build their nests on the ground. If they are threatened, they can fly as far as one mile at an amazing (55mph). It is strange that so many people think turkeys can’t fly. Seeds, nuts, roots, tubers, grubs, grasses, legumes and sometimes small amphibians and molluscs (snails and slugs) make up their varied diet. I love to feed them also. The turkey’s semi-wild nature means that they suffer very badly in factory farms.

In the U.S. more than 95% of farmed birds are intensively confined. One day old chicks (known as poults) are either placed in large, windowless broiler sheds or in pole barns (like warehouses) which have natural light and ventilation. Up to 25,000 birds may be crammed into a shed – giving only 2.5sq.ft to each. As they grow, they can hardly move and the floor becomes putrid and stinks of excrement. Like broiler chickens, the turkeys are in agony from burns and ulcers on their feet and breasts.

Instead of the wide variety of food that a turkey is meant to eat, farmed birds are given pellets of the same unnaturally high protein feed, day in and day out. A boring, never changing diet causes frustration and stress to almost all farmed animals. Because turkeys are forced to grow quickly and have an unnaturally large breast size, many are in severe pain as their heart and legs cannot withstand this abnormally rapid growth.

Millions of baby birds die mainly from heart attacks before they reach slaughter weight. Turkeys are never cannibals in the wild but in overcrowded, filthy, boring conditions, they may peck at each other relentlessly. Instead of changing the conditions, some are debeaked to prevent injury or death. In debeaking, slightly more than half of the upper beak is painfully cut off with a red-hot blade, and the lower beak is blunted. The upper beak is left shorter than the lower beak, making it difficult for the bird to grasp feathers or skin.

Turkeys have their toes clipped to prevent stress-induced fighting. According to Raising Poultry the Modern Way, ‘the two inside toes are clipped so that the nails are completely removed. Surgical scissors or an electric debeaker may be used’.

Lets only eat Organic fed and not factory farmed birds like I have just talked about.

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