If you are looking for an alternative way to celebrate Thanksgiving that doesn’t include plating a turkey on your table, you might be interested in the Adopt-a-Turkey Project.
Carol M. never dreamed she would be the guardian for a rescued turkey, but now she can’t picture life without her three girls – Misha, Jenny and Sammy. Three and a half years ago she rescued a pet turkey from her neighbor and fell in love with the bird’s “sweet nature.” When she wanted to find a companion for her pet, she traveled to the Adopt-a-Turkey Project at Farm Sanctuary where she adopted two more rescued birds.
Farm Sanctuary is a non-profit organization that works to stop the cruelty of commercially-raised farm animals and promotes a vegan lifestyle. Their two sanctuaries in New York and California are home to: pigs, sheep, cows, rabbits, geese, chickens and turkeys that have been victims of cruelty.
They began the Adopt-a-Turkey Project in 1986 as a way of offering a “compassionate alternative for Thanksgiving.”
Since then, Farm Sanctuary has rescued more than 1,000 turkeys from “a thankless fate at the dinner table and given thousands of people an opportunity to adopt a turkey for the holidays.”
The project started early this year when 11 baby turkeys were secretly dropped off at the sanctuary in Orland, CA. The staff will never know who brought the tiny birds to their doorstep, but they were grateful because the babies had already been abused by having the tips of their beaks and toes amputated.
Turkey producers on factory farms routinely perform this procedure to keep the birds from fighting with each other. They’re kept in crowded conditions with inadequate space. This environment causes the turkeys to become frustrated and violently peck at each other.
The tiny birds dropped off at Farm Sanctuary showed signs of respiratory and stomach infections. Some of them also had an unidentifiable illness that made it hard for them to walk or stand. They were quickly taken to the University of California, Davis Veterinary Hospital for treatment. The sickest bird that the staff called Kasey died as a result of his infection.
The other 10 turkeys were returned to the sanctuary and are getting stronger everyday. They are learning their way around the farm and at night in their barn they fall asleep on top of each other.
The Adopt-a-Turkey Project has two ways for people to help. First they can sponsor a rescued turkey for a donation of $25.00. Sponsored birds will spend their lives at one of the Farm Sanctuary locations. Their benefactors receive a certificate of their sponsorship along with a picture and the name of their bird.
The healthy and strongest turkeys are adopted to live with a human family – like Carol M. The adopted guardian promises to provide a “safe, permanent and loving home for two or more turkeys.” The guardian must also be a vegetarian that is committed to providing a lifetime of care for their feathered friends.
Individuals that are approved to adopt a turkey receive their companions from specially trained Farm Sanctuary staff that bring the birds directly to their new homes.
People compare the personalities of the turkeys to those of pet cats and dogs. They say the birds are “friendly, social and sensitive.”
Jane C. wrote on the Farm Sanctuary website, “Turkeys have a constant desire to keep you company. They watch all you do and are always ready to join in.”
“Once we took a walk on the paths that cross the meadows and forests that cover this wild ridge. There were four humans, five dogs, two goats, and four turkeys all hiking together.”
Now that’s how a turkey should live. Happy Thanksgiving.