“Turkey” Olympics Canceled by Inn; Based on Protests

"Opposition to the Turkey Invitational was in large part coordinated by a non-profit group based in Maryland called United Poultry Concerns, which protests the domestication of poultry and the treatment of the birds by commercial agriculture.
– Litchfield County Times
November 21, 1997

United Poultry Concerns Launched Campaign, Breaks News

On November 17th, 1997, United Poultry Concerns got a call from a newspaper reporter in Connecticut to say that the Inn at Lake Waramaug in New Preston, CT cancelled the turkey olympics this year. Just two months earlier the Inn had told UPC president Karen Davis that the 1997 turkey olympics was scheduled for Sunday, November 23rd, and that the show--an annual event for 17 years--would go on "as always."

Photo by Matt Kelly

The turkey olympics was a derisive entertainment in which turkeys were forced to wear costumes emphasizing sex and violence. The costumed turkeys were made to perform "athletics" so spectators could laugh at them. This event, which was represented as wholesome Thanksgiving entertainment, was nothing more than an excuse for machismo, obscenity, violence, animal cruelty, alcohol, and cheap news-media coverage. It had little support from the local community.

United Poultry Concerns developed the national campaign to stop the turkey olympics. (See PoultryPress: Vol. 5, No. 1; Vol. 6, No. 3; & Vol. 6, No. 4). Our Winter/Spring 1995 issue of PoultryPress placed the issue before animal activists throughout the world for the first time. In addition to our press releases, we launched a major letter-writing campaign to the Inn at Lake Waramaug, the local Chamber of Commerce, The Hartford Courant, and The Litchfield County Times. A batch of protest letters from UPC members was printed in The Litchfield County Times on March 31, 1995 and again on December 13, 1996. Inn manager Arnold Villarreal told the Associated Press that the inn received more than 2,000 protest letters (AP, Greenwich Time Nov. 26, 1997).

The Litchfield County Times featured a front-page article on UPC's protest on November 18, 1994. On May 6, 1995, The Hartford Courant published an editorial, Show some respect for turkeys, condemning the turkey olympics as "sophomoric." The editors quoted UPC president, Karen Davis, and UPC member, Linda Fleming of San Francisco, at length, and stated "That so many people rally to the cause of a bird bred for roasts, casseroles and clubs is nothing short of amazing."

Our successful campaign to end the turkey olympics combined the talents, hard work, and strategies of a national organization, United Poultry Concerns, and grassroots activists. Matt Kelly's photographs and report in 1994 enabled UPC to launch the campaign. The spectacular on-site demonstration and civil disobedience staged on November 24, 1996 by more than 50 Northeast activists, organized by Pam Ferdin and Jerry Vlasak, received huge publicity. The Litchfield County Times observed November 29, 1997, "The furor surrounding the event has grown over the past three years as it has become targeted by national animal rights groups, particularly United Poultry Concerns."

Activists wishing to thank the Inn should send a short, polite thank-you letter (no lectures or hostility, please) to The Inn at Lake Waramaug, 107 North Shore Road, New Preston, CT 06777.

United Poultry Concerns gratefully thanks everyone who joined our effort to eliminate the turkey olympics. This is a major victory for turkeys and for entertainment that is based on the voluntary consent and understanding of all participants. Thank You!