All pardoned turkeys die within’ a year or two of being pardoned

Maggie Vann, Reporter

Every year, 46 million turkeys are slaughtered for Thanksgiving. However, One supposedly lucky turkey is pardoned by the president. This tradition dates all the way back to 1863, when president Abraham Lincoln pardoned the first Thanksgiving turkey; this didn’t become a yearly occurrence until 1981, under Ronald Reagan. 


One recurring question is asked: What happens to this ‘honored’ turkey?


Pardoned turkeys have been sent to various locations. For many years the birds were sent to Frying Pan Farm Park in Fairfax County, Virginia. Then, in 2005, they were sent to Walt Disney locations around the US. Some ended up in Orlando, Florida, others in California. The turkeys that were sent to theme parks served as honorary grand marshals at the Thanksgiving Day parade. This continued until 2009. Since then, they have also been sent to Turkey Hill Farm in Virginia and Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. Today, they are sent to Gobbler’s Rest, a farm in Virginia that is run, and cared for, by Virginia Tech agriculture students. 


This sounds like something every turkey would dream about, but is being the pardoned turkey actually lucky? 


According to many articles surrounding the matter, just because they are pardoned doesn’t mean the ‘lucky’ turkey gets to live out a long, happy life. Domestic turkeys generally live for around ten years, that is as long as they aren’t harvested for Thanksgiving dinners. However, history of the pardoned turkey doesn’t show a long life span. They have been documented to live for just around a year, due to many factors.

 To begin with, they are often fed more than a turkey should eat, and they can’t handle this extra weight. Secondly, they don’t have many companion turkeys, because the previous year’s turkey is probably already dead, which goes against their flock nature. After loneliness, various health problems have also been recorded. 

Some could say that they are living in a rigged card game. Even the turkeys that aren’t harvested for Thanksgiving end up not surviving.