Goodwill towards Turkeys
Green Animal Welfare Spokesperson Sue Kedgley today said the Christmas season was a good time to show compassion and goodwill to animals as well as humans - particularly animals like turkeys and pigs that many New Zealanders eat on Christmas day.
"The best Christmas present New Zealanders can give animals this season is to take animal welfare into consideration when shopping for the Christmas dinner," she said. Ms Kedgley said there were free-range turkey farms and organic and free-range pig farms in New Zealand where animals are treated well and she urged New Zealanders wanting to eat ham or turkey for Christmas dinner to purchase free range or organically reared varieties.
Ms Kedgley said that while there was a general awareness about the conditions in which pigs are reared, most New Zealanders knew very little about how turkeys are reared, and might choke on their Christmas dinners if they knew the truth.
"Turkey's are wonderful, beautiful creatures and natural wanderers, but most turkeys we eat are reared inside sheds and never get to experience nature, let alone the ability to express their natural, inquisitive nature."
Intensively reared turkeys spend nine to 12 weeks crammed inside a shed, often with little more floor space than the equivalent of a broiler chicken. Sheds may have 3000 or more turkeys inside them.
"Turkeys are up to four times heavier than their wild cousins, as a result of years of selective breeding to make them grow faster. They are so heavy they can no longer fly or mate naturally and have to be artificially inseminated. Towards the end of their short lives many of them are so heavy that walking can be difficult."
Most turkeys have their beaks cut during the first few days of their lives as they can become aggressive when stressed. As their skeletons cannot keep up with the rapid muscle growth many birds develop osteoporosis, hip joint disease and leg weakness.
"Turkeys are fed unnatural diets of proteins including rendered down meats, carbohydrates and a range of antibiotics which make them grow faster still. Due to their weight turkeys can suffer a great deal at the slaughterhouse too, where they are hung upside down by their legs before being electrically stunned to death," she said.
But there are alternatives, and animals that are reared humanely in free-range conditions, she said. "Let's show our compassion for animals and support for farmers that treat their animals well."