10 lucky turkeys: the greatest gift

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Whilst not quite the Christmas gift I had imagined, the early morning call to advise that our Christmas presents were at the front gate set me off with a spring in my step, excited anticipation in my heart and a whisper of sleep in my eye. With the sun still thinking about making her ascent, and through the fading moonlight, two very large boxes greeted me. As I stared quizzically at them, my attention was diverted by the sound of tyres crunching gravel as a car sped off down the road and ten glorious, chirping baby turkeys came into my world.

Soon each one of them was lifted from the box, weighed, feet soaked in disinfectant, bodies sprayed for parasites and a kiss bestowed on each of their fuzzy, sweet heads—and I was yet again reminded of just how much I love turkeys. While their warm bodies with their soft feathers warmed my heart, the sight of the crippled stumps of their feet that once held their toes made me want to weep. How could we? How could our society allow for such a painful disfigurement of baby animals, which only added to the woes, their tiny beaks having been seared off when they were just days old.

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Over the coming days, we would introduce the turkeys to many things: sunshine, watermelon, a new home for two of the dear babies and, needless to say, kindness. While at first the turkeys feverishly huddled together, with backs hunched and little interest in the world, this persona soon gave way to curious, forthright and confident birds, whose sole aim was to explore every inch of their new world, determining which parts were edible and which parts demanded climbing (the later being quickly identified as people’s laps). Turkeys really are an animal who needs to be met to be fully appreciated. Their wide-eyed wonder, gentle innocence and proud dignity are certain to leave you in no doubt they are so much more than the centrepiece of a Christmas feast. One of my greatest regrets in life is not having met a turkey sooner, as I am sure both the turkey and I would have been better for the meeting.

Despite these lucky turkeys being spared the grizzly fate that is certain to meet their siblings, we were, alas, unable to save “Wee-one” from the ravages imposed upon her kind through selective breeding, which sees “farmed” turkeys far removed from their wild cousins, so much so that these birds are unable to breed naturally. Human intervention not only gives these magnificent beings their stark white colour (a camouflage-less colour that bestows no survival advantage to the bird, only a pleasant sight to our sensibilities) but also a rapid growth rate that their immature bodies struggle to cope with. One of the tragic spin-offs from this are health and welfare issues that beggar belief. In the case of Wee-one, it was tumours, several of which had invaded her abdominal cavity and advanced in growth to such an extent her intestinal system could not do its job and no amount of surgical intervention was going to be able to persuade it to do so.

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It is a sad fact that for turkeys such as these, industry and consumer demand ensures that every inch of their lives is as unnatural as it is controlled. Living en masse in over-crowded sheds with thousands of other birds, their frustration peaks. Combatting this is routine debeaking and foot trimming. Artificial lighting distorts normal sleeping and feeding patterns and a total lack of enrichment and nesting/bedding opportunities ensures nothing is natural about their short and miserable lives (most turkeys are killed at 10 to 14 weeks). Hock and breast burns can manifest from contact with the faeces-ridden and ammonia-rich litter that is their world. Weakened immune systems struggle to cope—and our animal protection legislation does little to help.

On the latter, there comes a glimmer of hope, with a recent announcement from the Victorian Government of a range of animal welfare reforms, including a new public sector group called Animal Welfare Victoria, a new Animal Welfare Action Plan, and a review of the state’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, with changes to recognise the sentience of animals, based on strong evidence that animals fear and feel pain. We also greatly welcome the long-awaited review of the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry, which is currently at the public consultation stage, and trust the spirit of Victoria’s reforms will influence our national standards. To have your say and speak up for turkeys and all our feathered friends during this consultation period, please visit http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/poultry/

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Beyond heartbreaking is the necessity to euthanise critically ill baby animals like Wee-one, simply because of the way our species has bred them. While such a circumstance never ceases to both enrage and sadden us, it also empowers us to share with the world the stories of these stoic animals, gives us hope because someone chose to follow their heart and save them, and reminds us that the greatest gift we can possibly ever give—one that has no monetary value but lingers far longer than most things imaginable and is welcomed by all, transcending species—is the gift of kindness.

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15 thoughts on “10 lucky turkeys: the greatest gift

  1. Thanks for sharing a both happy and sad story! Brought tears to my eyes. I don’t eat Turkey and am now even more convinced as to why.
    I look forward to hearing updates on the little guys’ progress. Also confirms why I donate to Edgar’s Mission.

  2. So beautiful.

    Their short lives will be nurtured and loved filled. None of us choose how long our lives will be, but while we’re here let’s live happy and healthy lives, without harming others.

    <3

  3. Thank you Pam for all your work. Please know that you are loved and very much appreciated. Happy New Year to you and ALL of yours. xo

    • Your an amazing woman,i cant thankyou enough for there are people like you,it brings tears to my eyes to see what these animals go through for human consuption.I will continue to donate.

    • I have had turkeys from babies,reared them from day olds, so intelligent birds, every day they both ran off down the road to a big reserve to explore, and in the afternoon I would stand in the roadway and yell out their names, and I could hear in the distance them coming, dear little souls running so fast down the road like road runners, straight past me and back into the garden and bed.it was a quiet side road, not a busy highway. had them years. loved them. Tish and Tash, as tash had a black thick feathery attachment on her chest.

  4. That is such a heart warming story. I am reminded of your overwhelming love and generosity for animals. Love to you all.

  5. thank you on behalf of these beautiful little creatures. they are indeed lucky. thank you for your continued fight to enlighten, educate and remind humans on all that is wrong in today’s world and that animals matter. please don’t forget you have a large host of fans and supporters that follow you, recognize and appreciate all that you and Edgars Mission do. Happy new year xxx

  6. so pleased that you were there for these babies. You work wonders at Edgar’s and I’m filled with admiration for you and your helpers. Many years my then husband was offered a turkey for Christmas which he accepted expecting it to be dressed. It wasn’t but it came home with us and she was a much loved friend for many years. They are lovely.

  7. Dear Pam and all at Edgar’s Mission. Thank you for all that you do for all living things. What dear birds those turkeys are. They will now be loved.
    Best wishes to all.

  8. Dear Pam and all at Edgar’s Mission,
    Thank you for your reminder of the cruelty we humans inflict on animals and birds, it is a very pertinent reminder at Christmas and other ‘festive’ times, when the focus is on food and eating these poor creatures.
    How heartening it is to read your thoughtful, well written and KIND articles. Thank goodness for people like you and the wonderful work you do, it is so inspiring and so worth supporting. Thank you, Siobhan

  9. Thank you Pam & staff…..bless you all for such kindness.
    Makes me feel ashamed to say I’ m a human! Would love to ’round
    up’ all those cruel people and dish out what they deserve !
    We had turkey’s on our farm many years ago and they certainly weren’t white!!!
    You are an inspiration , these stories must be publicised to make people aware how cruel these breeders are. People query when I
    say I don’t eat meat! All these beautiful creatures deserve a happy
    life.. THANK YOU again
    Margaret

  10. Such dear little souls. I only met a turkey for the first time last year, and as you say they are so soft to stroke. Lovely affectionate creatures. I hope all your ten little turks live as long and as happily as you are able to let them. <3
    Wishing all of you a very Happy 2018. xx

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