In the summer of 2002, I worked at a farmed animal sanctuary near my hometown in Western Pennsylvania. My day consisted of feeding the animals in the morning, and working on a larger project in the afternoon such as painting the barn a new coat of red, or mending a broken fence.
During my lunch break, one of my own decided duties was to hang out with the rescued turkeys. There was one turkey in particular with whom I took a special liking to. Her name was Darla. Darla had come to the sanctuary after falling off a truck bound for the slaughterhouse. She was quite the lucky turkey indeed.
Darla loved to bask in the sun, search for bugs, investigate what the rabbits were doing in the next enclosure, and eat her favorite treat—grapes. She also loved to be pet. Every time I stroked under her beak, she would fall asleep—sometimes even standing up!
Throughout the summer, I noticed Darla starting to change. She would wheeze when she breathed, and would spend more of her days lying down in the barn.
Darla got worse as the weeks wore on. She was becoming crippled under the weight of her genetically manipulated and drugged body. She was not intended to have lived beyond her date with the slaughterhouse. Her legs were giving out, and her lungs were being crushed by her ever-growing body.
One morning, I came into work and heard that Darla had to be euthanized the night before. I wasn’t surprised at the news, because I saw the amount of pain that she was in, and knew her time had come. I was still sad though, and remember her especially during this time of year.
Even if you haven’t had the great opportunity to be-friend a turkey, it is clear that they are smart, gentle, and feeling beings that deserve not to be used as a holiday dinner!