Monday, November 21, 2011

The Turkey Farm: Just Like a Horror Film

Back when I was a reporter and Thanksgiving was coming up (full disclosure: it was still at least two weeks away; we worked in advance for the non-essentials), I was assigned the requisite trip to the local turkey farm. 

"I really don't want to see a turkey slaughter," I objected. ("Animal lover" is my middle name.)

No slaughter, I was assured. Just get some nice photos of a sea of live white turkeys, their heads bobbing, looking pleasantly expectant; ask some questions about how many turkeys will be ordered and "dressed" this year, when customers should ideally order their Thanksgiving turkeys, etc.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North AmericaWith less than one week before Thanksgiving, hundreds of turkeys standAn estimated forty-five million turkeys are cooked and eaten during annual Thanksgiving 
I have interviewed some VIPs; I met and shook hands with and close-up photographed President Clinton. Could I write a fluff piece about turkeys? Hell to the yes. I just did not want to.

I don't really like turkey, and I can't remember when I did not feel guilty about  the main dish of Thanksgiving (I still won't buy or cook turkey; I make my parents do that.  One year, I "earned" a free turkey from the supermarket. I gave it away. We don't do turkey in this house.)

As it turned out, the professional photographer was coming to the turkey farm, so I could focus on writing the story and not worry about capturing the images. This was a partial relief.

We drove to the farm separately. I parked my car, and even through the air vents, I could smell something bad. It was the smell of death.

"Do you smell that?" the photographer asked me, crinkling his nose. I nodded; I certainly could, and in fact, the odor will haunt my dreams...for the rest of my life.

We walked past a pen where turkeys roamed freely. I was relieved to see they still had their heads. 

Did they look "pleasantly expectant?" I can't say that they did. What I saw read more as abject terror.

Then, as we got closer to the barn, we heard the screaming. Turkey screaming. Axes were being used. Six axes at once. It was a freaking massacre. 

"Don't look over there!" the photographer shouted at me (which of course made me look there). 

A thick river of blood coursed down the dirt driveway. When I write, "thick river," it does not adequately describe how thick this river was.

That was it for me. No turkey story would be written this morning (I would get the interview by phone; even from 15 feet away, the farmer stank so bad of blood and guts, and his overalls were so slimy that I could not deal). 

"Then all I saw of Collins was the dust churned up by her silver Saab," the photographer (who was equally traumatized but could laugh about all this) later said back in the newsroom.

If you learn anything from this, it is: Do not visit a turkey farm before Thanksgiving or any other holiday when people traditionally eat turkey. 

Sarah Palin once gave an interview at a turkey farm, right before Thanksgiving. She was officially pardoning a turkey, back when she was governor of Alaska. Then came the post-presidential-election interview questions. Palin blithely smiled and prattled on in her folksy twang as a man dispassionately beheaded and bled turkeys right behind her.

The executioner kept looking around as if he couldn't believe she would have chosen that spot for an on-camera interview. How could she not know what was happening? No matter what you think of Palin, and I don't have the highest views, it came across as either callous or unbelievably stupid.

You know what? That Sarah Palin turkey video is so crazy, I am going to repost it. Enjoy!

I would add now: Maybe don't eat turkey, but people tend to get pissed at me when I suggest vegetarianism. I don't have many other ideas for how to get around the Thanksgiving conundrum besides, "Cook some great side dishes; take the focus off meat." (Or, as Palin put it at the pardon, "Find nourishment elsewhere." This may be the smartest thing I've ever heard her read.)

"What about protein?!" people always ask then, as if humans will literally drop dead if we don't eat big slabs of meat at least twice a day.  

Digression: we do not need nearly as much protein as we think we do, and besides, there are plenty of other non-flesh sources. But do what you want to do; I am not trying to tell anyone else how to live. 

Have a happy Thanksgiving, and if you're so inclined, please pardon a turkey.


  1. Diana Not the HuntressNovember 21, 2011 at 6:12 PM

    You had me a "turkeys screaming." It was clinched by "thick river of blood." Tofurkey, anyone?

  2. Tofurkey is actually not bad, but I find it's best to distract people with other delicious substitutes that aren't trying to pass as fowl. Inevitably, someone will be fooled (granted, this person would have to be legally blind) and then feel embarrassed.

  3. So funny, in a horrifying way, and let me just say that I like the new blog design and you are way more gorgeous than Sarah Palin!