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The Pardoned Turkey

Have you ever sat down together with your family on Thanksgiving and ate a turkey? I’m guessing you probably have, since eating a turkey is one of the main things Thanksgiving is known for. Have you ever wondered how many turkeys get eaten? Have you ever wondered how many don’t? Every year the president of the United States saves a turkey from becoming a Thanksgiving meal. This is known as the pardoning of the turkey. 

Around 270 million turkeys are killed each year, and of those, 46 million are for Thanksgiving. So being the pardoned turkey is a very special honor. From what I have gathered, nobody really knows when the pardoning of the turkey started. It is said that Abraham Lincoln unofficially started it, but it was officially started by President George Bush in 1989. It’s said the first documented turkey pardon was given by John F. Kennedy in 1963, though it wasn’t recognized right away. The history of the pardoning of the turkey has been very confusing. Presidents like Truman, Nixon, Ford, and Reagan are all said to have pardoned a turkey, but none had officially started it. The pardoning of the turkey has a lot of flexibility with its details, but a common factor is that the turkeys are often picked from the chairperson of the NTF’s (National Turkey Federation) home state. 

The pardoned turkeys are often some of the biggest turkeys available, normally weighing somewhere between 30 to 50 pounds. After being pardoned, the turkeys are brought to a different place. These places are often changing, but some places the turkeys have been sent include a small farm park, Disney resorts, and even Mount Vernon. An interesting thing about the pardoning of the turkey is that they started pardoning two turkeys since they had a backup because most of the turkeys that they picked didn’t live long enough to be pardoned. There is a lot of debate about the goodness of the pardoned turkey. Some people strongly disagree with the whole thing and think it is very cruel and wrong. Other people think it is a fun tradition that helps support the turkey industry. One of the most interesting things about the pardoned turkeys, in my opinion, is their names. Some of my favorite names include Peanut Butter and Jelly, Stars and Stripes, Peas and Carrots, Biscuits and Gravy, Apple and Cider, and Chocolate and Chip. So as the pardoning of this year’s turkeys, Liberty and Bell, occurs, what do you think of the pardoned turkey? 

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About the Contributor
Jillian Tieskotter
Jillian Tieskotter is a junior at Fillmore Central High School. She has one older sister and one younger brother. She enjoys reading, watching movies, and listening to music. She lives on a farm and spends a lot of time outdoors. She loves to spend time with her family and friends. 
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