10 Things Everyone Should Know About Free-Range Turkeys

Over 280 million turkeys are slaughtered annually for human consumption in the United States, despite the fact that such consumption is unnecessary for humans and absolutely horrifying for turkeys. Forty-five million of those deaths occur for the ritual of Thanksgiving alone.

Increasingly, as consumers are becoming more aware of the extreme cruelty of animal farming, free-range, organic and “natural” animal products are gaining popularity. What many people don’t realize, however, is that animals raised under these labels frequently suffer through much of the same torment as those in standard factory farming operations.

1. According to the USDA, the terms “free range” and “free roaming” can be used to describe animals that “are allowed access to the outside for 51 percent of their lives.” There are no other requirements, including the amount of time spent outdoors or the quality and size of the outdoor area. For this reason, contrary to popular belief, “free-range” facilities are generally no more than large sheds in which tens of thousands of turkeys are crammed together on filthy, disease-ridden floors, living in their own waste. The conditions are often so poor that many turkeys die simply from the stress of living in such an environment.

2. Lighting is often kept dim to discourage aggression, since birds can engage in feather plucking and even cannibalism when they become highly stressed. Low lighting can cause reduced activity levels and result in abnormalities in growth, such as in the eyes and legs.

3. When raised for food, turkeys (even those described as free-range) are genetically modified to grow abnormally large — often twice their normal size — for producer profits. This genetic modification causes severe health problems, but since turkeys are generally slaughtered five months into their natural life span of 10 years, most are killed prior to the heart attacks or organ failure that would otherwise occur after six months. (This becomes apparent when genetically modified turkeys are rescued and allowed to live out the rest of their lives in sanctuary situations.)

4. “Natural”, “free range,” and “organic” turkeys are routinely subjected to debeaking, which is intended to prevent overcrowded birds from pecking at each other. Debeaking involves slicing off about one-third of a bird’s beak with a red hot blade when the turkey is around 5 days old (or often even younger).

5. To prevent cannibalism due to stressful conditions, turkeys sold under the above labels are just as likely to be subjected to detoeing. Detoeing is a very painful procedure which involves cutting off or microwaving the ends of the toes of male turkeys within the first three days of life.

6. Free-range, organic and natural operations are also allowed to practice desnooding, which consists of the cutting off of the snood (the fleshy appendage above the beak). Desnooding is an acutely painful procedure, and is often done with scissors, or using methods that are too brutal to describe here.

7. By the time the birds are sent to slaughter, as much as 80 percent of the litter on the floor of the shed is their own feces. This results in a buildup of ammonia, causing turkeys to develop ulcerated feet and painful burns on their legs and bodies.

8. When they reach market weight, free-range turkeys generally undergo the same horrifying conditions on their way to slaughter as does any factory-farmed animal. Workers gather these birds up to four at a time, carrying them upside down by their legs and then throwing them into crates on multi-tiered trucks. During transport, they are at the mercy of the elements, sometimes enduring extreme cold, and are denied access to food or water.

9. After transportation, free-range turkeys arrive at the same slaughterhouses as turkeys from any other facility. In these places, workers often torture the turkeys – kicking them, throwing them into walls, and breaking their necks and bones.

10. Even when turkeys are not intentionally tortured during transportation or at the slaughterhouse, the killing process itself would certainly be considered torture if done to a human being. The birds are hung upside down by the legs, and dipped in an electrical bath that is supposed to “stun” them, but often only causes convulsions and terror. If they miss the stunning bath, their throats are slit while they’re still conscious. Sometimes, because they are flailing around, they miss both the bath and the blade, and end up alive in a scalding tank designed to remove feathers.

As anyone familiar with animal sanctuary operations will tell you, turkeys are intelligent, social beings who nurture and protect their young and thrive in their natural habitat. Even when they are stressed and confined in “free-range” concentration camps, they have an amazing will to live, as do all sentient beings.

In the extremely rare cases where turkeys are raised gently in someone’s backyard, slaughter by any method is intentional killing of the innocent and clearly unnecessary for humans, and is therefore wrong and logically indistinguishable from murder.

Instead of practicing the primitive ritual of making the sacrifice of a turkey the focus of Thanksgiving dinner, consider giving thanks for all life by having a vegan thanksgiving. Being vegan inspires a new sense of self-esteem which comes from not contributing to the unnecessary and heartless killing of those who simply want to live their lives, as you do.


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Cuppy M.
Cuppy M2 years ago

More veghead propaganda. BOO

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Dale O.

So very true, Pego R. Just be sure to find a small farm and know the source of where your organically raised turkeys come from if someone is eating turkey. There are true free range places where turkeys live a good life running around outdoors if you know how to find them. Enact stricter laws in some countries.

'Logically indistinguishable from murder.' People do eat meat as they have for eons, I suppose in a vegan world, some people would want others convicted and jailed for murder if they ate meat.

For those eating turkey, just find a small farm where turkeys have live a good life. If there is a turkey food free world, then eventually all turkeys would become extinct, except for the wild ones.

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you :)

Val M.
Val M3 years ago

Very sadly noted

Carol S.
Carol S3 years ago

Sad :(

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 3 years ago

Thanks 4 the info. I could never eat another turkey in my life. I was always disgusted heartbroken seeing a massive dead turkey on our table 4 Thanksgiving. Am meat free 4 several years. Organic or not all turkeys feel the fear agonizing pain when brutally killed.

Pego R.
Pego R4 years ago

I just wish that These articles were not so embarrassingly fact-free. Somebody doesn't even know what GMOs are or how they actually get into breeds.. The double-muscled breeds of turkey and cattle are old mutations from over a century ago, when they barely had microscopes and CERTAINLY not GMOs

If you want everyone to follow your diet, doesn't it behoove you to not feed them BS while you are working on it? and if you HAVE to feed people falsehoods to get them to follow your diet, is that actually a recommendation for the diet or the types of people who woudl beleive this sort of propaganda?

If we are going to make the world a better place the FIRST thing we need to do is educate ourselves out of believing people who say whatever we like over what is true. We need more of this; http://editthis.info/logic/Course_in_Logic_101

And a GREAT deal less of this, which is where Ms Flinn seems to be living and perveying; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_techniques

Katya Pavlova
Katya Pavlova4 years ago

better to be veg

Lorna C.
Lorna C4 years ago

Nut roast for me