United Poultry Concerns
22 November 2011
“Talking Turkey” on Vegan World Radio:
Interview with UPC President Karen Davis

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Photo: The Gentle Barn
Join show host Pamela Kletke for this eye-opening
view of our beautiful Native American Bird.

The show will air Wednesday, November 23rd, from 10 to 11 p.m. CST. Learn more and get a link to download the show here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Vegan-World-Radio/121473860846

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“My Life as a Turkey” by Joe Hutto on PBS: Illumination & Blindness in the Flatwoods of Florida http://video.pbs.org/video/2168110328

To be followed by Katie’s Story.

Joe Hutto’s 1995 book Illumination in the Flatwoods: A Season with the Wild Turkey, currently out of print, is the basis for his beautifully photographed and moving story about his 1991 experience of incubating and raising a clutch of wild turkeys on a North Florida quail hunting plantation. To increase the number of quails for canned shooting, the owners were clearing hardwood trees and plowing the ground with tractors that were destroying wild turkey nests. This is how Hutto got his bowl full of 16 eggs for incubation, of which 15 were fertile. He tells the story of his “life as a turkey” in the form of a diary containing many passages that, in their beauty, heartbreak and poignancy, are equal to the photography of his PBS program.

Fortunately missing from the PBS show (though hinted at) is Hutto’s disparagement of domestic turkeys in his book. In both the book and the show, Hutto claims there is no connection between wild and domesticated turkeys, a false and unsubstantiated claim. In his book he makes clear that he means there is no cognitive connection between the two. Even the domesticated turkey’s voice, he says at one point in his book, is too “crude” for him and his wild turkey progeny to care about (Hutto, p. 235). When it comes to domesticated animals in this otherwise thoughtful book, the “spiritual union of the individual with the universe” doesn’t apply (Hutto, p. 131). Hutto even feeds turkey sandwiches to his wild turkey youngsters.

As I wrote in my book More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality, pp. 147-148, Hutto spoils his spiritual journey with his own turkeys by harping on the despicableness of all things “domesticated,” particularly turkeys and chickens. Of this attitude I wrote that Hutto is personally alienated from domesticated animals, who despite his contempt for them are as much a part of the universe he extols as their wild counterparts are. The “pen-raised poultry” he despises derived from the “real wild turkeys” he adores (Hutto, p. 78). They are all related, genetically, psychologically, and neurobiologically. Whatever deficiencies domesticated turkeys may have are the result of their susceptibility to human manipulation inherent in turkeys as such, whose resistance to our destructiveness toward them is even more impressive than the physical infirmities they carry because of our tampering with their health and wellbeing.

Illumination in the Flatwoods is a wonderful book, but it would have been more wonderful if the journey the author says stirred him to “rethink many of my attitudes and presumptions about the complexity and profoundly subtle nature of the experience within other species” (Hutto, p. 199) had included recognition of the fact that the experience of becoming “domesticated” is implicit within many, if not all, wild animals, including turkeys. Moreover, if one is going to despise all beings who “allow” themselves to become domesticated, which in the case of turkeys has meant a relentless, full-scale assault since the 16th century European invasion of the Americas, the animus must logically extend to the majority of humanity, which is a highly domesticated species.

It would be worthwhile if a responsible person (even Hutto himself if he could set aside his prejudice against domesticated animals) would undertake to incubate, raise, socialize with, and videotape, in a wooded, meadowy environment, a clutch of industrially-bred white turkey poults and record their hatching and development, with careful attention being given to how the physical infirmities bred into them for meat production, including a predisposition to congestive heart failure and painful lameness, affected them as they grew.

In the meantime, here is Katie’s Story by Canadian farmed animal investigator Twyla Francois:

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“...Then we saw Katie - terrified and near shock. I held her in my arms, covered her eyes with a towel and sat quietly, warming her. While first resistant, and very likely remembering those rough hands from the day before, she eventually calmed down and dozed off....”

Click on http://www.upc-online.org/turkeys/story_of_katie.pdf to read the full story.

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