The National Journal notes that Thanksgiving Turkeys are fatally defective and that a "pardon" by the President is cold comfort for the lucky:
2012 was a fine year for Cobbler, the turkey. Cobbler, who was raised in Rockingham County, Virginia, was just 19 weeks old when he was named the National Thanksgiving Turkey, earning himself a pardon from the president of the United States on November 21, 2012..
But Cobbler didn't last long. Just months after the passing of his turkey alternate, Gobbler (all pardoned turkeys have an alternate), Cobbler was euthanized on Aug. 22, 2013. Like every other turkey pardoned by President Obama, Cobbler and Gobbler are no longer among the living. Only one turkey pardoned by the president has lived to see a second Thanksgiving.
Tomorrow, on the day before Thanksgiving, the president will again pardon a National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate, this time from Minnesota. Their names are, adorably we guess, Popcorn and Caramel....
A 2010 report for the Humane Society detailed the burdens that turkey eugenics have wrought on the birds. Simply put, they are not bred for living, but for eating.
The report's section on turkey obesity says that "[f]arming interests have transformed Ben Franklin's tree-perching 'Bird of Courage' into a ﬂightless gargantua bred to grow so fast that today's commercially raised turkeys," according to a previous study cited in the report, " 'are on the verge of structural collapse.' " The added weight causes degenerative hip failure and other joint deformities.
In fact, they are so fat that without human intervention, the domesticated turkey would go extinct. That's because turkeys "have been bred for such heavy body weight that they are physically incapable of mating, necessitating artiﬁcial insemination via tube or syringe."
And like overweight humans, these obese turkeys suffer and die from heart disease. "Sudden death associated with acute heart failure and perirenal hemorrhage (bleeding around the kidneys) is a signiﬁcant cause of mortality for rapidly growing turkey toms," the report states.