Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and many Americans are eagerly awaiting sitting down for dinner with their families to celebrate. But while it’s an exciting week for humans, it’s a dreadful one for turkeys.
It’s been a time-honored tradition for decades for the US president to hold a “turkey pardoning” ceremony ahead of Thanksgiving, and the lighthearted annual ceremony returned today as President Joe Biden spared two turkeys from the dinner plate.
Peanut Butter & Jelly
The two lucky turkeys this year are named Peanut Butter and Jelly (Jelly is technically Peanut Butter’s alternate, though both get spared). They were raised by Andrea Welp in Jasper, Indiana.
“With another year of uncertainties with the pandemic, this project has really been something to look forward to, and has been a joy to be able to participate in,” Welp said at a press conference.
The pardon recipients are chosen by the National Federation of Turkeys chair, and they get elevated to VIP status. As in previous years, the turkeys were put in the five-star Willard Hotel in Washington DC.
“We do some extra prep to the room to make sure it’s comfortable for them, putting down shavings and making sure their food and water is accessible,” Beth Breeding, the spokesperson for the National Turkey Federation, told ABC News.
“We do our best to make sure that we leave the room cleaner than we even found it. We clean up afterwards and then we also work with the hotel to make sure the room is cleaned.”
White House ceremony
After receiving the luxury treatment, it was time for the turkeys’ starring moment at the official National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation, held this afternoon.
It marked the first turkey pardoning for President Biden. As in previous years, the ceremony was a lighthearted affair, filled with references to political current affairs mixed with turkey puns. “Instead of getting basted, these turkeys are getting boosted,” Biden said.
“Turkey is infrastructure. Peanut Butter and Jelly are going to help build back the butterball.”
The president also acknowledged that the holiday would be a return to normalcy for many Americans, who were in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic this time last year.
“It’s important to continue traditions like this to remind us how from the darkness, there’s light and hope and progress — and that’s what this year’s Thanksgiving, in my view, represents,” he said. “Many of us will be gathering with our loved ones for the first time in a long time. And we’ll be reconnecting with traditions, with our tables and our hearts full of grace and gratitude for everyone who made it possible.”
Meanwhile, Peanut Butter and Jelly were just grateful to be alive.
New life at Purdue
So what’s next for Peanut Butter and Jelly? They will be given sanctuary at Purdue University’s Department of Animal Sciences in the College of Agriculture. The university says they will receive good care with their own private enclosure, while also providing a valuable resource to students.
“Although turkeys are an important American cultural tradition, most people do not know much about turkey production and management, so this is an amazing chance for us to increase awareness and knowledge of turkeys’ behavior, personalities and welfare,” Dr. Marisa Erasmus co-advisor of the Purdue Poultry Club, said in a statement.
“The turkeys will provide a great resource for students to learn more about the poultry industry and about policies that impact poultry production,” added co-advisor Dr. Greg Fraley.
History of the turkey pardon
The National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation is a tradition that dates back to the 1940s, however, the “pardon” wasn’t always part of the custom.
Many presidents, including Eisenhower and Truman, did in fact eat their turkeys, although others spared their lives, including Jimmy Carter and John F. Kennedy.
Kennedy, presented with a turkey that said “Good eating, Mr. President!” spontaneously opted to spare the bird — three days before his assassination in 1963.
Ronald Reagan formally “pardoned” his turkeys, and his predecessor, George H.W. Bush made it the annual custom every president has followed since.
Congratulations to Peanut Butter and Jelly on their presidential pardon! We hope you’ll enjoy the rest of your lives, safe from the oven.
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