Turkey, tofurkey, and no pardon for the White House turkey

After much deliberation and serious soul-searching, I’ve come to a conclusion. If I’m ever elected President of these United States and Thanksgiving rolls around, I’m not pardoning the turkey.

I’m sorry if that flies in the face of tradition, but if it’s ever up to me, that bird’s a goner. If you disagree, fine. Pray all you want for a “stay of execution.” My prayer will simply be that the white meat be as juicy and tender as the dark meat and that it not be overcooked.

Our nation has recently been embroiled in a poultry scandal. A major supplier of eggs (chicken eggs, not turkey eggs) has come under fire for alleged cruelty to chickens.

I’m all for kindness to animals of all sorts. I don’t even like the idea of anybody pulling the wings off of flies, though, with apologies to frogs and users of medical maggots, and admitting there’d likely be some negative ecological consequences, I’d be quite happy if they’d all die (flies, that is). “Suffer not a fly to live” is my motto. But I don’t see any reason to be mean even to a fly before splattering its innards across a flyswatter.

On up the scale, I’d say chickens are even more deserving of kindness. Down with cruelty to cluckers! They should be free to lay their eggs in peace and tranquility. I’d like to think I’m eating an egg laid by a contented bird or a leg from a clucker that was happy as a clam before it went the way chickens were created to go.

But I wonder if I could be forgiven (probably not) for wondering how much actually registers in a chicken’s very small brain. When I was a kid visiting my grandparents at Robert Lee, Texas, I remember Granddaddy walking out the back door of the house and into the “pen.” He deftly chased down a chicken, caught it by the neck, made a wish (maybe), twirled it the way he might have cranked the engine on a Ford Model T car, and off flopped the bird’s head.

What happened next surprised me. The now-headless brainless bird began to run wildly all around the pen. For chickens, at least for a little while, brains are evidently optional accessories.

I learned a good bit watching Granddaddy that day. I was a city kid. We bought chickens at the grocery store; we didn’t catch them behind our house and personally dispatch them before they hit the frying pan.

Recently, it seems that the PETA folks (all city-bred, I’d wager) wanted the folks in Turkey, Texas, where my wife’s from, to renounce real turkey on Thanksgiving and rename the town Tofurkey for a week. It didn’t happen. Folks from turkey use their brains. They know what turkey is for, and they know that tofu ain’t turkey. So, no Tofurkey.

Thanksgiving is all about being grateful to God for his good gifts. Turkeys are among his good gifts, and my gratitude for them reaches its highest point at the moment I’m eating them and thereby ensuring that many, many more will be produced than if we declared them off-limits and gorged ourselves on tofu.

So, no pardon for turkeys during the Shelburne administration. No tofu, either. We’re supposed to be thankful “in all circumstances,” but I think eating tofu at Thanksgiving would make gratitude particularly challenging.