Recently, Farm Sanctuary National Shelter Director Susie Coston attended the New York City premiere of The Ghosts in Our Machine, a documentary that illuminates the lives of animals suffering within the global industries of food, fashion, entertainment, and research. While at the event, Susie received an urgent call. As a truck transporting turkeys to a live market made its way through the streets of NYC, a lone turkey tumbled off the back.
When Susie came for the bird who had fallen from the truck, he greeted her with energetic interest. She carefully loaded him into her car and began the five-hour drive to our New York Shelter in Watkins Glen. Fascinated by his unusual surroundings, Susie’s passenger chatted the entire way.
The turkey is a Broad-Breasted White, the breed favored by factory farms, which produce the overwhelming majority of turkey meat consumed in the United States. Turkeys at these facilities are packed into warehouses by the thousands, and intense crowding, foul air, disease, and injury make their short lives torture. Because the stress and frustration of such miserable living conditions can drive the birds to fight, producers subject newborn turkeys to painful “de-beaking” and “de-toeing” procedures, amputating portions of their sharp, sensitive beak-tips and toe-tips without anesthesia.
Industrial turkeys are not only physically disfigured by producers, they are also genetically manipulated to fit the demands of commercial mass production to the point that they are unable to reproduce naturally because the males develop chests so heavy they cannot mount. Breeding domestic turkeys to rapidly grow to an enormous size causes a slew of other health problems, too, particularly heart attacks and lameness.
Although these turkeys undergo tragic physical alterations and endure daily cruelty in factory farms, each is still bursting with life and intelligence. This cheerful turkey is healthy and active despite the ordeal he just survived. He’s having a blast investigating his new home, striking up friendships, and satisfying his natural curiosity that had been stifled in the production environment. But if he had reached his original destination, this joyful bird would have been slaughtered within days.
In honor of the director of The Ghosts in Our Machine, we named our new friend Marshall. Like his namesake, Liz Marshall, he has a story to tell about the exploited animals most people never see. Simply by letting his charismatic personality shine, Marshall will serve as an ambassador for the millions suffering unseen in factory farms.