Every turkey rescue at Barn Sanctuary came from a small farm operation where they were neglected to the point of near death. When we got the call about the Golden Girls, they had been discovered and rescued by a local humane group from an unfinished barn in the middle of winter in Ohio. They were the only turkeys that survived that cold night. The others were found frozen to death.

Ben, Jerry and Harry were rescued from a hoarding case. The owners were bathing them under hoses, feeding them cat food and leaving the doors to the barns open at night for predators to come in. There were half-eaten remains of their fellow birds and dead bodies of animals laying in the barnyard. All of the turkeys we rescue were grossly overweight when they arrived. They were bred for human consumption and treated as such.

Volunteer Joe & Dorothy having a chat

Since arriving at Barn Sanctuary every one of the turkeys has transformed from the scared and shy birds they once were into the curious and affectionate creatures they truly are. At sanctuaries we get to witness the true character and personality of the animals we rescue. Turkeys (not unlike humans, dogs or cats) show their true selves in environments where they are free to roam, play and thrive naturally. The turkeys are some of the most beloved rescues at the sanctuary by volunteers and guests alike!

Turkeys are naturally curious, nurturing and social. They communicate with each other in over 20 different sounds, and each turkey has a distinct voice that their social group can identify. Did you know that they even enjoy listening to music? Turkeys are incredibly social and affectionate birds as well. They love to be stroked, petted and loved on and will even purr.

Male turkeys especially love attention and will puff up and change colors when people are around to attract it. Female turkeys are fiercely protective of their young. When a mother turkey’s eggs are close to hatching she will not under any circumstances leave them…and good luck coming between a mother and her young.

Despite the fascinating emotional and intellectual lives of these birds, they are often mistreated by the consumer-driven food and agricultural industry. They are genetically modified over the years to be overweight, artificially inseminated to mass produce, kept in confinement, painfully mutilated and slaughtered by the millions.  

Every year for Thanksgiving alone, 46 million turkeys are slaughtered. Families are eating nearly twice as much turkey as they did 25 years ago and commercially bred turkeys have already doubled in size since the 1960s. As a result, turkeys are being slaughtered on a mass scale.

Turkeys being raised for slaughter are kept in confined and crowded spaces. The ammonia and toxins caused by living among their own excrement can cause lifelong respiratory issues. As a result of these terrible environments, farmers will cut off turkey’s beaks, toes and snoods to prevent them from attacking each other when stressed. Turkey’s beaks are loaded with nerve endings and thus, highly sensitive. These procedures are done with shears, hot blades and without anesthesia or pain relievers of any kind.

In 2013 the Washington Post wrote an article about bird abuse in fast-line processing facilities, stating that an estimated 1 million chicken and turkeys are unintentionally boiled alive each year due to improper slaughter methods.  

To suffer such enormous pain and confinement, to never learn basic natural instincts, to never breathe fresh air or experience affection, to live only a fraction of their potential full life… this is the unbearable reality turkeys face.

This Thanksgiving we hope you’ll join us in celebrating the life of these amazing birds by leaving them off your plate. There are plenty of cruelty-free options available to choose from that don’t cause harm to any animals (check out some of these recipes).

By going turkey-free this Thanksgiving you are consciously choosing a more compassionate holiday tradition.

We invite you to participate in our Be Turkey Free Pledge!