Obama puts turkey pardon up for a vote

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The White House is holding an online contest that will allow people to vote on which turkey will be pardoned by President Obama on Wednesday.

This year, voters can choose between Caramel and Popcorn, two birds from the farm of Minnesota resident John Burkel.

"Caramel is a steady and deliberate bird that enjoys soybean meal and rocking out to Lady Gaga," said White House deputy director of online engagement Erin Lindsay in a blog post announcing the contest.

"When Popcorn is feeling peckish, he can't stop snacking on his namesake, corn, and has been known to strut around to Beyonce's ‘Halo.’ "

Voters can see pictures of the birds, listen to recordings of their gobbles, and then vote on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter through a website set up by the White House.

"We'll count up the hashtags to make sure there's no fowl play," Lindsay quipped.

No matter who wins in the online vote, both birds will be spared, and then moved to Mount Vernon to live out the remainder of their lives.

The birds are awaiting their fate at the Willard Hotel, across the street from the White House. They'll be brought to the executive residence on Wednesday for an afternoon ceremony with the president.

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.

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.

But the ceremony is not without controversy. Last year, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to the White House demanding Obama skip the pardon, accusing the president of being in partnership with the "turkey-killing industry."

In a letter, the animal rights group argued the annual White House ceremony "makes light of the mass slaughter of some 46 million gentle, intelligent birds."