Author Topic: The Turkey (and other animals) Christmas killing fields  (Read 1175 times)

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The Turkey (and other animals) Christmas killing fields
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2011, 06:04:02 PM »
TODAY I speak in support of the humble turkey. Oh, what an underestimated bird.

Handsome and proud, turkeys strut around the farmyard, yet as I write the killing fields are being stained with their blood, sacrificed to satisfy the Christmas need and greed of humans.

It's a sort of turkey genocide. The birds are removed from their indoor prisons, herded into trucks and taken away for what is euphemistically called processing.

They never return. It is ritualistic slaughter, an unholy war fought to celebrate one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar.

A couple of weeks ago, US President Barack Obama, in a curious convention, reprieved one turkey facing the Thanksgiving massacre.

This lone turkey will live out its life in comfort on George Washington's historic estate.

It is a symbolic and essentially meaningless gesture. One saved, millions die.

As winter ends in Australia, the turkeys are fed with supplements to fatten them up so that they fetch the top prices in the Christmas buying frenzy.

Parcelled in plastic and stacked in the supermarket freezer, then stuffed with onion and breadcrumbs, roasted in an oven, carved, smothered in gravy and finally daubed with plum sauce, it is an undignified end.

Vegetarians and animal liberationists can take little comfort from my concerns.

As an advocate for the turkey, my case is weak, even hypocritical.

This year we have decided, for reasons of convenience, against turkey for Christmas lunch, instead opting for chicken along with a few slices of ham.

Which doesn't make the Christmas season much fun for chickens or pigs either.

The sacrifice of thousands of turkeys for Christmas gluttony is a tradition that in Britain stretches back nearly 500 years. A steaming roast is the ideal meal in the middle of a cold British winter.

As with so many other long-standing traditions, Australia simply copied Britain, although it makes little sense to serve a hot roast when Australia is celebrating high summer and in many parts of the country - and certainly South Australia - temperatures are likely to be above 30 degrees and probably much higher.

The humble turkey has just got to cop it. Turkeys are large, stately birds with dazzling plumage and extraordinary facial features.

People who see a live turkey up close for the first time are often surprised by their size. In a free-range farmyard, turkeys can be intelligent, tactile, friendly - and temperamental.

In the wild they can fly like pheasants and run like emus. Free-range turkeys have a potential life span of about 15 years.

Not so the sacrificial Christmas turkey. They will probably live only a few months, certainly less than a year, and the majority will spend most of their days in cramped sheds. Genuine, uninhibited free-range is unusual.

The life of a Christmas turkey, closely monitored by the RSPCA and other animal groups, is hardly pleasant. They are born and bred for one purpose and one timeline - to be plump and appealing for the supermarket and the Christmas dinner celebrations.

It is no different, of course, from other farm animals destined for human consumption - chickens, geese, ducks, sheep, cattle, pigs and a variety of seafood products.

When the trucks come, the turkeys will be strung up by their feet on a moving production line, stunned with an electrical shock and have their throats cut by an automatic knife.

The industry will predictably say otherwise but mistakes will be made. It's all necessary to meet demand and keep down the production costs.

Australia is a nation of meat eaters, as well as traditionalists.

As meat eaters, we are well above the world average on a per capita basis.

So I'm not suggesting for even a moment that we should abandon a 500-year-old tradition and ban turkey from the Christmas dinner table. And I'm not saying turkey production is cruel.

Nor am I suggesting it would be less cruel to eat beef, lamb, chicken, lobster, prawns and other seafood.

This is our culture.

This is the way we are. We are the captives of our traditions, tastebuds, appetites and beliefs.

But let's quietly salute the humble turkey now being rounded up and herded into the killing fields.