By Jennifer O’Connor
Some years ago, when I interned at a sanctuary for farmed animals, I’d sit in the barn, and a turkey named Fern would back up into my lap and demand to be petted. When I’d stop, she’d look over her shoulder imploringly as if to say, “More, please.” I always think of Fern this time of year, when supermarket bins are filled with the frozen bodies of her relatives. If people got a chance to know these interesting and personable birds, I believe they’d balk at baking and eating their wings, legs and breasts.
Turkeys on farmed-animal sanctuaries quickly prove themselves to be intelligent and industrious, as well as outgoing at times and shy at others, much like human children. As I sat in the barn watching them, the birds’ distinct personalities were immediately clear. Some, bold and hilarious, would walk right up and look me square in the eye as if to challenge my right to invade their space. Others, like a coy debutante, would peer over their shoulders, aloof but not wanting to miss anything exciting. Many, like Fern, would actually purr when being petted.
In a game of “one does not belong,” one wild turkey integrated herself into the rescued flock. Her plumage was iridescent and she stood out like a beacon. Her robust health contrasted painfully with the crippled legs, mutilated beaks and unnatural white feathers of those around her who had been saved from slaughter. Even though the rescued birds were safe and tenderly cared for, their hideous past had left them physically and emotionally scarred for life. Click to continue »