'Pardoned' Turkeys Swiftly Die

They're simply not bred to live long

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 27, 2013 10:37 AM CST

(Newser) – President Obama will "pardon" a pair of turkeys today and send them to live at Mount Vernon, and if that gives you a case of the warm fuzzies, you should know that both "Caramel" and "Popcorn" will probably be dead within the year. Every turkey the president has ever pardoned is dead, including the two pardoned last year, CNN points out, with one only lasting until February. In the two previous years, three of the four died in less than five months (the other held out an impressive 16 months).

The reason: The birds are bred for food, not longevity. Their normal-sized internal organs can only hold up to their carefully engineered bulk for so long. A spokesman for the National Turkey Federation, the lobbying group that provides the birds, says they have "a life expectancy of about 18 weeks. They are not raised as pets." It's one reason Brad Plumer at the Washington Post wants to end the pardon—the others being that it mocks real presidential pardons, and isn't nearly the historic tradition it pretends to be. Of course, at this point columns decrying the pardon are becoming a tradition of their own.

President Barack Obama carries on the Thanksgiving tradition of saving a turkey from the dinner table with a "presidential pardon" at the White House, Nov. 21, 2012.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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