PUBLISHED ON: 15 December 2011
The sad reality of modern day turkey farming is that few birds ever get to express these natural behaviours. But eight lucky turkeys who were recently rescued from an Australian factory farm have just discovered these simple pleasures for the first time. These lucky birds now spend their days at Edgar's Mission Farm Sanctuary, in Victoria.
Watch as they take their first steps into sunlight at their new home:
Rescued from what?
Happy endings like these are sadly rare. A recent investigation by Animals Australia member society Animal Liberation ACT revealed thousands of birds crammed into overcrowded sheds and living in their own waste at one of Australia's largest turkey farms:
Sadly, the conditions at this factory farm reflect standard practice across the vast majority of turkey farms in Australia. About 5 million turkeys are farmed for human consumption each year in this country alone.
Like factory-farmed chickens, turkeys have been selectively bred to grow quickly and to abnormally large sizes. By the time they reach the slaughter line, most turkeys are twice their natural weight. This fast growth rate often causes leg, joint and bone disorders; can result in heart and organ failure; and causes such unnatural deformities that male turkeys are physically unable to mate — meaning female turkeys need to be artificially inseminated.
Despite a natural lifespan of 10 years, factory-farmed turkeys are just 10 to 17 weeks old when they are killed. For the duration of their lives, the sheds in which they live are not cleaned. The smell of ammonia in the air can be overpowering — often causing eye and respiratory problems for the birds trapped inside. The combination of overcrowding and rapid growth also means that turkeys will sit for extended periods in their own wet waste, which can result in ammonia burns to their breasts and painful foot sores.
Cramped and stressful living conditions can lead turkeys to peck each other out of frustration. But rather than provide birds with more space, the industry has responded by cutting off part of their beaks with infra-red heat. Many birds also have part of their middle toe cut off with the same device. All of this is done without pain relief.
The first time these birds will see the sunshine and smell fresh air will be on the last day of their lives — as they are trucked to slaughter.
You can help!
If you believe that turkeys deserve kindness, and not cruelty, there's an important choice to make. Factory farms exist because consumers unwittingly buy their products. Give these curious and affectionate birds something to celebrate this festive season by avoiding factory-farmed products, and choosing cruelty-free alternatives for your holiday menu.