Meet The Turkeys Pardoned By President Obama

With his daughters by his side President Obama gave the executive order on Wednesday to pardon two turkeys from becoming part of someone’s Thanksgiving dinner. The birds named Liberty and Peace were the 23rd and 24th recipients of the annual tradition.

President Obama said, “Thanksgiving is one of the best days of the year to be an American. It’s also one of the worst days of the year to be a turkey. They don’t have it so good.”

Then with a wave of his hand, the President spared Liberty’s life in front of the cameras and news media. Offstage he pardoned Peace, who was selected as the understudy. Both birds will spend the rest of their lives wandering the grounds of Mount Vernon.

Liberty and Peace were handpicked for the potential honor along with 32 other turkeys from a commercial farm in Willmar, MN. Minnesota is the largest producer of turkeys. An estimated 46 million of the birds are expected to be eaten by Americans on Thanksgiving.

Liberty and Peace were born on July 7 and sent to be specially trained at 5 weeks-old with student members of Future Farmers of America. Both birds are currently 19 weeks-old and weigh 45 lbs. In addition to raising the birds and keeping them healthy, the students taught the turkeys how to remain calm around crowds and cameras.

“Now, I’m told that in order to prepare Liberty and Peace for their big day the students exposed them to loud noises and flash bulbs so that they’d be ready to face the White House press corps,” Obama said.

Liberty sat peacefully for the cameras, but this has not always been the case. One turkey got sick just before the pardon ceremony and another panicked and had to have his feet nailed to the stage. So now an understudy is picked each year and the turkeys receive extra training.

President Obama spares Liberty, the 24th turkey pardoned in the annual White House event. Photo: AP

History of the Pardon Tradition

The official ceremony to pardon one or two turkeys is relatively new, but the tradition of bringing a prized bird to the White House goes back to the beginning of the country. Typically a turkey was brought for Christmas rather than Thanksgiving and it ended up on the dining table of the President and his family.

The first rumors of saving a bird came during President Lincoln’s term when his son Tad begged his father to release a Christmas turkey. Lincoln agreed and the turkey lived.

Then in 1963, the National Turkey Federation sent a live turkey as gift to President Nixon. He sent the bird to a petting farm.

The first official turkey pardon was held by President George H.W. Bush in l989. He shipped the freed bird to the unfortunately named Frying Pan Park in Virginia which is actually a historical farm. Pardoned turkeys continued to go there until recently.

The 32 other turkeys that were specially trained by the student members of Future Farmers of America, but did not receive a pardon are on their way to a slaughterhouse. Their meat has been donated to a local shelter that is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner.

Related Stories:

Making This Thanksgiving Cruelty Free

4 Reasons To Rethink Your Thanksgiving Traditions

Macys Window Full Of Adorable Pet Orphans

Photo from myrnalitt via flickr.  Photo of turkey pardon courtesty of Associated Press.


Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Carole R.
Carole R6 years ago

Sort of a silly tradition, isn't it?

JASMIN HORST S6 years ago

What crime had they committed?

Sonja Rowland
Sonja Rowland6 years ago

Good grief! one mustn't kill Liberty and Peace!!!

Samantha N.
Samantha N6 years ago

Two turkeys lived, while hundreds of thousands of others were slaughtered for this archaic and barbaric tradition. How heart warming?

And then to make light and fun of the horrible lives these, and several other animals are forced to endure, by the billions, annually?

Apathy, ignorance and a complete disregard for any non-human life are among the worst characteristics of the human race. Until we start caring, and making a change, things will not improve.

Go vegan. Do it now.

Sarah Lee
Sarah Lee6 years ago

This is all bullshit

Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright6 years ago

"They don't have it so good".................that has to be one of the biggest understatements of the year.

I managed to enjoy Thanksgiving SANS turkey. Plenty of wonderful potatoes, vegetables and salads. Yum............................

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago the birds have it better?

sandra b.
sandra b6 years ago

Pardoned? Pardoned for what? It's the humans who breed, murder and consume creatures by the billions who are the criminals. KARMA happens -- it's just a matter of time.

gary c.
Gary C6 years ago