Live turkeys were tossed from a plane 500 feet above the location of the Turkey Trot Festival in Yellville, Arkansas on Saturday. Anywhere else this act of dropping turkeys out of the sky would be animal cruelty, but not in this little city as residents prepared for the 72nd Yellville Turkey Trot. Thousands of people called and emailed the Chamber of Commerce urging them to do more to protect the birds:
“Why don’t you jump yourselves with no parachute. … Think you’ll like it?” one person wrote to the chamber Monday. Other comments were more outspoken and at times quite profane.
And if you’re wondering why in the world any city would promote tossing turkeys out of planes, the weekend celebration is meant to be a celebration of the bird – maybe not what any compassionate animal advocate would think especially a bird tossed out into the air, but Arkansas, as one of the nation’s top turkey producing states, is proud of their tradition. They also run a “Miss Drumstick” pageant where contestants are judged solely on their legs. Besides that, the Yellville Chamber of Commerce stated the event meant fall had arrived, and that’s when people think about turkey dinners. Falling from the sky turkeys though?
On Friday, four turkeys were released off downtown buildings during the first day of the festival, according to the Baxter Bulletin. Dan Melton, 64, caught one of them – an 18-pound bird that he said he would probably give away as a pet.
Turkey Trot is organized each year by the Yellville Area Chamber of Commerce. The organization has stepped back from endorsing the turkeys thrown out of the plane. The organization posted a disclaimer on their website:
“The Yellville Area Chamber of Commerce does not have a part in the release of turkeys from airplanes. We are in charge of planning the events that take place at the festival, the booths that are set up on our courthouse square, and the selling of Turkey Trot merchandise.
The release of turkeys from planes has been a part of Turkey Trot for many years, but a third-party individual, not affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce, regulates it … Chamber board members, Turkey Trot sponsors, and Chamber members have absolutely no affiliation, jurisdiction, or control over what any individual does in his or her private plane in the air.”
So what happens to the turkeys? First and foremost, the birds could just free fall and land on the ground and die at impact. Then there could always be the bird who survives the frightening trauma, but then only to be mauled by the crowd chasing it as it glides to the ground – maybe slaughtered in a public display? Fortunately for the bird captured by Melton, that lucky turkey will likely survive and find a safe home.
On Saturday, a 1966 Piper PA-28-140 flew by the festival Saturday and dropped three live turkeys. Several more were tossed out from the plane later in the afternoon. The Arkansas Online, reports People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals caseworker Gemma Vaughan was present:
“We rescued four turkeys — one who was trussed by his legs and tossed onto the concrete where he lay panting as spectators walked over him, and another found bleeding from her neck and legs,” Vaughan said.”Both are being rushed to a veterinarian for their injuries. Anywhere else, the participants would be in jail, and officials’ failure to prosecute those responsible makes Yellville synonymous with cruelty to animals.”
Ironically it’s not that Arkansas doesn’t have humane animal codes with punishments for misdemeanor animal cruelty punishable with fines up to $1,000 and one year in jail. After four convictions within five years, animal cruelty becomes a felony in the state, yet not one arrest has been made for tossing turkeys from planes. And it’s not as if the turkeys fly away and live happily ever after! Wild turkeys can fly, however seldom do they soar higher than a 100 feet in the air. How can any reasonable person not call this an act of animal abuse?
(Photos via screenshots nwaonline and PETA)
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