In the US, Thanksgiving this year is Thursday 24th November. It’s a time to roast and carve up the turkey. The problem is that turkeys are far more sentient than many people realise. And in line with the fact that turkeys like an occasional cuddle, a farm in California, The Gentle Barn, which is 40 miles north of Los Angeles together with two sister animal sanctuaries in Tennessee and Missouri decided to do the opposite to what you would expect at this time of year and invite people to cuddle their turkeys rather than eat them.
PETA are ahead of the game. About five years ago, to the day almost, they published an article on how turkeys like to be cuddled. They said that turkeys are “unique, curious animals who sing to their young. Some even love cuddling”.
They have a picture of Morrissey by Chris Polk cuddling a turkey. PETA said that the turkey was enjoying a sweet caress from Morrissey. And when they aren’t forced to live on farms, they build nests and forage for food and those who know them say that they are natural detectives. They are very curious and always check out new smells and sights. They enjoy greeting visitors.
In nature they stay with their mothers for up to 5 months but on farms all turkeys are hatched in large incubators. They never see their mothers or feel the warmth of the nest.
Remarkably, PETA say that in the wild, turkeys can fly at 55 mph and run at 18 mph. They live for about 10 years. The picture above shows a warm encounter between a goat and a turkey at The Gentle Barn and the photograph is by them.
Given a chance turkeys can form special bonds with humans and other animals. Perhaps humans should look at them in a different light. I certainly do.
And in line with that thought, the cuddling initiative came to the founder of The Gentle Barn, Ellie Laks. She had rescued and raised a fowl who was named Spring. Spring would follow Laks around “chirping at her as she did her chores” as reported by Will Pavia, the New York correspondent for The Times newspaper.
Ellie Laks said: “One day she talked to me for a longer time, I put down my rake and sat on the ground. I sat there for a good 25 minutes and she closed her eyes and we had a good cuddle.”
That appears to have been a revelationary moment of enlightenment for Ellie Laks which led directly to her inviting people to cuddle her turkeys rather than being killed for Thanksgiving.
One visitor to the farm which is described as a sanctuary by The Times newspaper said that a turkey “nuzzled up to my chest and [leaned] into me, and I was struck by how soft she was, especially the top of her head”.
I am sure that some news media websites are having a bit of a field day about this and regarding it as a joke but there is a serious side to it. It is a story which has been widely reported. Perhaps it has touched the heartstrings of some people. Perhaps it has enlightened many people. And perhaps, therefore, we should not see turkeys as dinner but as a sentient being to be cuddled.
I think we would get a lot more out of a turkey if we cuddled rather than ate them.