Not so merry Christmas

The Life of a Christmas Turkey

An investigation into a Victorian turkey farm and slaughterhouse reveals the hidden cruelty behind the Christmas dinner centrepiece. 

More Information

Approximately 6 million turkeys are killed in Australia every year and 4.5 million of them are consumed during Christmas.

Due to the cramped conditions turkeys are forced to live in on farms, cannibalism and peck injury are common among flocks. In an attempt to minimise the damage this can cause to the final product, turkeys are painfully declawed and debeaked on their first day of life, procedures that cause ongoing pain and suffering as the turkeys continue to grow. The infrared laser method of beak removal causes the tip of the beak to slowly die and break off.

Genetic alterations as a result of decades of selective breeding means that today’s farmed turkeys are double the size of those in the 1960s. Due to this rapid growth, many turkeys suffer illness, injuries or even death before reaching slaughter age, their legs and internal organs struggling to cope with their enormous body weight.

Turkeys are killed between 10 and 18 weeks old, meaning the turkeys on Christmas dinner tables are merely babies.

Two main slaughter methods are used in Australia, the cone and shackle line method. The cone method involves turkeys being forced upside down into a cone shaped apparatus in which they are then decapitated and bled out. The shackle method involves turkeys being hung upside-down by their delicate feet. Their heads are then pulled through an electrified body of water intended to render them unconscious before they are killed. Given their large wingspan, their wings often hit the water first, giving them painful electric shocks. If the depth of water and the electrical current aren’t perfectly calibrated, many turkeys will emerge conscious on the other side. Others simply lift their heads and avoid the stun bath completely.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are a huge variety of plant based alternative meat products now on the market that are more sustainable and ethical as well as being delicious.

We can choose to see turkeys for the complex and unique individuals they are, recognizing their inherent desire to live, free from harm and suffering, just like us and the companion animals we hold so dear. We don’t need to cause suffering to someone else to celebrate Christmas day, we can instead celebrate a new kindness, which extends to everyone.

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Cruelty and abuse are inherent to the animal slaughter industry, including meat, dairy, eggs, fur, wool and leather. Much of this cruelty is legal, due to exemptions in animal welfare legislation that specifically permit acts of cruelty towards farmed animals, that would be illegal if performed on dogs or cats.

The only way to truly stop cruelty to farmed animals is to stop eating them. Take the pledge today to leave animals off your plate and live vegan - be part of a growing movement towards a kinder, more sustainable world, and take a stand against industries that harm and exploit animals.

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  • End my consumption of animal-based food and products, including meat, dairy, eggs, fur, wool and leather.
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