Farm Sanctuary celebrates the animals for Thanksgiving

Farm Sanctuary's turkeys line up for their own Thanksgiving celebration

A Thanksgiving celebration that celebrates and honors rescued turkeys instead of serving them up as a main course?

Farm Sanctuary, a non-profit organization that rescues abused animals and works to promote compassionate treatment of farm animals, hosted their annual Celebration for the Turkeys at their 300-acre farm just west of Orland, California.

Founded in 1986 by Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary is a safe haven for rescued animals of all types – cows, ducks, geese, sheep, pigs and turkeys, often the victims of unprovoked cruelty.

Ducklings rescued from abuse now have a safe haven

Examples of this abound at Farm Sanctuary:

  • Geese and ducks were rescued from the Santa Cruz area after numbers of their flock were killed by people shooting BB guns at them.
  • Cows tied up and abandoned

Worse still are the stories of animals rescued after Baur and his team who, while undercover visiting slaughterhouses, discovered traumatized live animals piled on top of stacks of dead ones. They take these animals back to the Sanctuary, ensuring they’ll receive state of the art care and compassion for the rest of their lives.

When it comes to the turkeys, Baur revealed some sobering facts.

Thousands of factory farmed turkeys are crammed into warehouses their entire lives

Because turkeys have been consistently genetically manipulated,  factory farm-raised turkeys are no longer able to reproduce. They’re now all created via artificial insemination.

Genetic manipulation has led to other health issues. Turkeys generally live an average of 10 to 12 years. A  Farm Sanctuary volunteer said rescued turkeys rarely do so because of health problems that include cancer.

And, she said, “we have to watch their weight (because) it can effect their feet.”

Because they’re genetically bred for big breast meat, said Baur, turkeys are unusually large breasted, which makes it difficult for them to walk. Turkeys there often stumble as they move their abnormally large bodies forward.

“It’s hard to support their weight,” Baur said.

Rescued farm animals live a better life at the Sancruary

Baur and Farm Sanctuary are advocates for stronger laws to protect animals on factory farms. They were part of the 2008 campaign in California to pass the groundbreaking anti-confinement law, Proposition 2, that now allows young cows, pregnant pigs and egg-laying hens to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.

Eight other states have since passed similar laws to protect farm animals, including Ohio and Michigan.

“We always try to get members of the agri-business community to come to the table & negotiate with us before we try from the ballot box,” says Meredith Turner, a Farm Sanctuary spokesperson.

Unfortunately, current California protections excludes turkeys, which allows factory farms to raise them in dark, overcrowded warehouse settings, with bare inches of space to move during their lifetime.

Asked about so-called “range free” turkeys, Baur cautioned that many of these are operated like the large-scale factory farm operations.

“(You) don’t really know what you’re buying,” he said.

Turkeys being hand-fed at the Celebration for the Turkeys

The Celebration for the Turkeys was a one-of-a-kind celebration, featuring the turkeys as guests of honor. A crowd of around 200 people – including many young toddlers, schoolchildren, parents and other adults from across the northstate– gathered in one of the Sanctuary’s upper barns. Platters and dishes of foods like halved pumpkins, salad greens and cold squash casserole were brought out and handed around so those gathered could experience feeding the turkeys, who eagerly pecked and gobbled their way through the feast.

The sold-out event also featured several speakers, including NBA Champion John Salley, who is vegan and a champion for animals.

Salley recounted his journey from meat eater to vegetarianism.

“It’s about changing the mentality,” Salley said. “If you can change yourself and do what you can do,” he said, “that’s the best”

When it comes to eating healthy, said Baur, “we need to question our assumptions.”

Cholesterol and other health problems are the result of eating unhealthy food and believing we need to eat meat, he said.

As an example, he pointed to Bill Clinton’s recent announcement that he’d become a vegan due to health problems.

Consider adopting a turkey rather than eating one!

The celebration also included a buffet-style dinner held under a tent during a pouring rainstorm. The vegan menu was complete with Tofurkey and pumpkin pie (with pumpkins from  Nash Ranch) and music provided by Justin Young, who’d recently toured with Sheryl Crowe.

Farm Sanctuary offers individuals and families the opportunity to Adopt-a-Turkey throughout the year for a small fee, and the opportunity to sponsor a farm animal with a monthly donation. For more on these, check out

One Response

  1. […] to reveal these tragic situations to the public. Among al this stand a great organization called Farm Sanctuary which stands as a safe haven to rescued and abused farm animals of all […]

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