A Little Turkey History

“You know that Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address and the Emancipation Proclamation, but did you know he also penned a special order of reprieve to save the life of a turkey named Jack?

The story begins on Oct. 3, 1863, when Lincoln signed an official proclamation setting aside the last Thursday in November as a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” That November, a citizen sent a live turkey to the White House to be part of a holiday feast.

Lincoln’s son, Tad, who was 10, bonded with the bird. In addition to naming him Jack, Tad treated the turkey like a pet and taught it to follow him around the White House grounds. When Tad learned that Jack was to be killed and prepared for a big meal, he interrupted his father at a cabinet meeting, crying and pleading that his new friend be spared. Lincoln had a soft spot for his rambunctious youngest son and delayed the meeting long enough to pen “an order of reprieve” for the turkey. Tad rushed the order with him to the kitchen and proudly presented it to the ‘executioner.’ Jack then became a part of the Lincoln pets collection, which also included a pig, a rabbit, ponies, goats, cats and dogs.” PresidentialPetMuseum

Let's talk turkey facts

  • Turkeys are highly social and intelligent animals who form deep friendships and emotional bonds and even like to listen to music, love to cuddle, and have their feathers stroked.

  • In nature, turkeys can fly 55 miles an hour and run 18 miles an hour.

  • In nature, turkeys live more than 10 years, but on factory farms they’re slaughtered at just 4-5 months old.

  • According to the USDA, an average of 270 million turkeys are killed in the U.S. annually.

  • Turkeys on factory farms are denied the simplest pleasures, such as raising their young, building nests, running and flying.

  • Turkeys, like chickens, are bred to grow so large very quickly that their legs often break underneath them.

  • Due to overcrowding, turkeys become unnaturally aggressive, so poults (baby turkeys) have their beaks and toes cut off without anesthesia, which leads to life long pain.

  • Turkeys on factory farms will only see the sunshine or breathe fresh air when they are being loaded onto trucks bound for slaughter and many turkeys don’t survive the trip to the slaughterhouse, as they are denied food and water, often in extreme weather, resulting in death.

  • Once at the slaughterhouse, turkeys have their throats slit, sometimes while fully conscious before being dunked into the scalding tanks that remove feathers. Sometimes, turkeys are fully conscious while this is happening.