Turkeys don’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas. The end of the year is not a time for celebration for them, but a time when for most of them, their lives come to an end.

Turkeys available at supermarkets today are the result of intensive farming. Selective breeding and commercial farming techniques have altered the appearance and damaged the general quality of life for turkeys. Commercial turkeys have little in common with the wild turkeys of 1621 or even the domesticated turkeys of 1947. Today, millions of turkeys around the globe are bred, killed, and eaten every year.

Intensive turkey farming forces millions of turkeys to endure short lives under conditions that ignore turkey’s physical, mental, and social needs. In the wild, turkeys move one to two miles a day, roaming territories that stretch as far as 1,000 acres. Wild turkeys spend up to 90 percent of their waking time foraging for food. Poults eat small insects, while older turkeys eat both plants, such as fruit, acorns, and grasses, and animals, such as larvae, grasshoppers, and beetles. On farms, turkeys only spend around 8 percent of their time eating.

Turkeys roost in trees, dust-bathe to keep their plumage clean, and can run and fly at speeds of 10 to 20 and 55 miles per hour, respectively. Turkey hens form tight-knit bonds with their poults and take care of them for at least five months. After leaving their mother at the end of fall, brother turkeys often form all-male groups and stay together permanently.

Turkey farming takes all of these freedoms away.

Commercial turkeys have been bred to yield as much meat as possible in the shortest time possible. In the U.S., the average weight of a turkey has more than doubled from 15 pounds in 1960 to 32 pounds in 2019. Due to their rapid breeding and growth, commercial turkeys’ lifespan is drastically reduced. Between 2010 and 2017, at least thirteen of the sixteen turkeys presented to the sitting U.S. President were euthanized or died of health conditions within two years of the Thanksgiving turkey ceremony they attended. In the wild, the life expectancy of a turkey is four to three years. In captivity, turkeys can live for up to 10 years, depending on their living conditions.

Intensively farmed turkeys are kept in conditions that are so crowded that they cannot even flap their wings. Most industrialized farming operations hold around 55,000 turkeys and up to 10,000 turkeys in a single barn.

In the U.S., hatcheries incubated 336 million turkey eggs and hatched 281 million poults in 2019. During the same year, 229 million turkeys raised on around 2,500 turkey farms were slaughtered and processed for food.

Globally, around 655 million turkeys are slaughtered every year.

The human cost of turkey farming

Despite production slowdowns due to COVID-19, the turkey industry is set to keep most of its facilities open through the holiday season, putting poultry workers and their families at risk.

Spreading COVID-19
In April, more than 50 workers at a Butterball plant in North Carolina were infected with COVID-10. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents thousands of poultry workers, criticized the poultry industry for a “delayed” response to COVID-19 that was “killing America’s essential workers.”In May, a West Liberty Foods plant that furloughed hundreds of workers due to production slowdowns later tweeted that 138 employees at the plant had already been infected with COVID-19.
Increased Injury Risks: In 2018, the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism compiled data from U.S. meat plant workers and found that “amputations, fractured fingers, second-degree burns and head trauma” are among the potential injuries workers face every day.Records gathered from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) showed that on average, 17 severe accidents – meaning workers were hospitalized, lost an eye, or needed an amputation – occur each month at slaughterhouses and animal exploitation facilities around the country.

Increased Health Risks
Jessica Robertson, a former inspector at a turkey processing plant in Utah, suffered the health effects of exposure to chemicals like peracetic acid – which is used to sanitize turkey carcasses. Robertson, and other workers at the plant, experienced itchy eyes, shortness of breath, coughing fits, bloody noses, headaches, nausea, and respiratory issues.Even after an employee died of lung complications from peracetic acid exposure, the FDA, USDA, and OSHA failed to set exposure limits for peracetic acid used in turkey production.

Mental Health Issues
Slaughterhouse work has been linked to a variety of disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder. It has also been connected to higher incidents of domestic violence, as well as alcohol and drug abuse.A worker at a chicken plant told The Guardian that one of his colleagues was “hauled off to the mental hospital” after he “kept having nightmares that chickens were after him.” Another slaughterhouse worker told BBC, “As I spent day after day in that large, windowless box, my chest felt increasingly heavy and a grey fog descended over me. At night, my mind would taunt me with nightmares, replaying some of the horrors I’d witnessed throughout the day.”

Learn more about modern turkey farming here

Original source: https://sentientmedia.org