November 18, 2013

The Secret Life of Turkeys.

It’s that time of the year again.

The smell of cinnamon and pumpkin is everywhere. Houses get warm and cozy. The streets get cooler and the roads are filled with orange leaves.

This season also means that people start planning the festivities and all the upcoming gatherings. Everywhere in town there are decorations of happy turkeys next to beautiful table decorations; turkeys and thanksgiving dinners seem to go hand in hand.

While some people are starting to share their thanksgiving recipes, tips and whatnot, I would like to think that this year, we could try something new and consider the lives of our fellow earthlings, the turkeys.

I wonder if we can think of the creature we are about to purchase, whether it lived freely—I know I didn’t use to do think of that.

Now I know that turkeys do not belong on our table.

Outside killing-farming conditions, turkeys are one of the most curios birds I know. They live a completely different life than the ones living in captivity. Unfortunately, the vast majority of turkeys raised in the United States are meant for feeding purposes only. In which case, they live for up to five months, if they aren’t  killed younger, whereas in the wild, these beautiful birds can live up to 10 years.

When it comes to their everyday life, I love how they behave among other turkeys, particularly at dawn. As they start to gather around trees to climb and look at the sunset (maybe I was a turkey in another life because I love to do this too.) They tend to do this ritual together, but they have been seen doing it alone, too.

When it comes to mating, male turkeys use their big tail of feathers to show off, so that later, female turkeys come to them guided by their future mate’s sounds—which can be heard over a mile away. After they have found a partner, the female bird lays from seven to 15 eggs. She is the one in charge of raising the new members of the family for the next five months, maximum, because the baby turkeys learn to go go on their own quickly.

Usually, the male turkey has little to nothing to do with the raising of the baby turkeys. The female turkey is known to defend the little ones and provide for them.

Other interesting fact about turkeys is that they are excellent explorers. They can memorize the “goods” and “bads” in a land of up to a mile, identifying the sources of food and mud. They can walk or run at up to 25 mph and go around smelling and looking for new paths.

For them, a good sand bath while walking around doesn’t hurt at all.

Unfortunately for the turkeys raised in “food farms” their reality is much different, where their short lives are basically pain and suffering. Lately, the food industry has managed to modify food in order to grow larger, quicker turkeys. They can grow unnaturally big—at times, they cannot stand on their own or even mate—therefore the majority of turkeys are “produced” out of artificial insemination.

For the turkeys that get to live, their life resembles the lives of the chickens on a hen house. They live so close together that they cannot fly. This takes them to a state of despair until they die of starvation or butchered.

Personally, my heart aches every time I pass by the freeze section at the super market—and I know my thanksgiving table is going to be bird free.

Care to join me? 

In the meantime, here are five extra fun facts of turkeys I didn’t know about.


 Like elephant journal readers for animal rights on Facebook.

Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Gregg Pratt

Read more: The Secret Life of Elephants & The Secret Life of Piglets.


Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Gabbi Magana  |  Contribution: 1,700