Thanksgiving can be tough for a turkey, but every year two birds get a lucky break thanks to the presidential pardon.
And for the pardoned turkey and its alternate, their large size makes life sweet—but short. Last year's presidentially pardoned turkeys, Apple and Cider, passed away within the year after President Obama pardoned them. [Best Cities to Visit This Thanksgiving.]
Susie Coston, national shelter director of the Farm Sanctuary, a farm animal rescue facility, says that the birds are bred for eating, which makes them fat and prone to heart disease, respiratory conditions, and strained joints. In order to dodge death, she says, the turkeys would need to be on a restrictive diet.
Apple and Cider's deaths, though, won't put a damper on this year's pardoning of the presidential turkeys, who will be named by President Obama. Even before heading to the White House tomorrow, both will get the star treatment with a night stay at the posh W Hotel in downtown Washington. "They might be too excited to even go to sleep," says Sherrie Rosenblatt, spokewoman for the National Turkey Federation, which helps to organize the yearly pardoning.
Why two birds? One is chosen as an alternate in case the other dies before the Rose Garden event. This year's birds are from Minnesota.
Rossenblatt says the birds are specially selected at birth to be part of the pardoning ceremony. They are exposed to music, hand feeding, cameras, and loud noises to prepare them for the event, covered by the White House press corps. [Bachmann’s Thanksgiving: Cheap Bird and ‘Turkey Bingo’.]
"It is kind of like a beauty pageant," Rosenblatt says. "The turkeys have to look good on camera, but also have a nice demeanor. They have to have pride in the honor that is bestowed upon them."
After the ceremony at the White House, both of the turkeys will be taken to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens in nearby Virginia, where they will live out the remainder of their lives. The pardoned turkey will be part of the Christmas display, where it is a "popular draw," says Rebecca Aloisi, vice president of marketing at Mount Vernon.