PETA asks Obama to skip 'outdated' Thanksgiving turkey pardon ceremony

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a letter to the White House on Tuesday demanding President Obama skip the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon.

While Obama will be preventing a turkey from being carved up, PETA called the ceremony outdated and accused the president of being in partnership with the "turkey-killing industry."

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In a letter, the animal rights group argues the annual White House ceremony "makes light of the mass slaughter of some 46 million gentle, intelligent birds." It also says the annual event "portrays the United States president as being in some sort of business partnership with the turkey-killing industry."

"You understand so well that African-Americans, women, and members of the LGBT community have been poorly served throughout history, and now I am asking you to consider other living beings who are ridiculed, belittled, and treated as if their sentience, feelings, and very natures count for nothing," wrote PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in the letter.

The letter also objects to the idea that the birds could be pardoned, arguing "they are not guilty of anything other than being born into a world of prejudice."

The turkey pardon is a Thanksgiving tradition that harkens back to Abraham Lincoln, who, according to legend, wrote out a presidential pardon for a turkey at the insistence of his son, Tad Lincoln.


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Former Presidents Kennedy and Nixon also made a point of returning turkeys presented to the White House to either their original farms or local petting zoos, and former President George H.W. Bush became the first president to formally announce the turkey pardon during the 1989 turkey presentation.

PETA suggests in its letter that the president should break with that tradition and instead serve a Tofurky roast at the White House.

But it does not appear that the president will heed the advocacy organization's call. 

Earlier Tuesday, the White House announced that the American public could vote for the first time on which turkey will be pardoned, creating a Facebook poll where users can lodge their vote.

The president might not lend the most sympathetic ear on the issue of turkey pardoning, however. In 2009, he joked that year's turkey had only been saved "thanks to the intervention of Malia and Sasha — because I was ready to eat this sucker."

"I'm told Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson actually ate their turkeys," Obama said. "You can't fault them for that; that's a good-looking bird."