Turkey is a very popular meat product and often the centerpiece at Thanksgiving celebrations. What happens before the turkeys reach the stores and dinner tables however, is absolutely horrifying.

Happy Thanksgiving? Not for turkeys! about 40 million turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving.

Factory Farms

Most turkeys are raised on factory farms. They are packed together in very overcrowded sheds, where each bird has only 3 square feet of space.

Factory farmed turkeys live in crowded warehouses.

"Debeaked" turkey.

"Debeaking" and Toe Cutting

Living in overcrowded conditions creates an enormous amount of stress for the turkeys, which causes excessive pecking and fighting. To keep them from hurting or killing each other, farmers cut off the ends of their beaks and toes. No anesthetics are used. For some turkeys it is so painful to eat with their mutilated beaks that they will starve to death.

Antibiotics and Genetic Engineering

Antibiotics and genetic engineering have been used to make a lot of changes in commercial turkeys. Commercial turkeys have been altered to grow twice as fast, become twice as large, have white feathers and abnormally large breasts. All these changes have caused serious health problems like collapsed lungs, swollen joints, crippled feet and heart attacks. Commercial turkeys are also unable to reproduce naturally and are artificially inseminated instead.

Wild turkeys are able to fly short distances and often sleep in trees.

Commercial turkey / Wild turkeys.

Turkey transportation.


When the turkeys are 14-18 weeks old they are ready for slaughter. Workers will usually grab them by their legs and throw them into crates. The crates are then stacked on the back of trucks. In the winter some turkeys freeze to death and in the summer some die of heat stress. It is legal to transport farm animals for up to 36 hours without food, water or rest.

The Slaughterhouse

In the slaughterhouse, the turkeys are hung by their feet on a moving rail while fully conscious. First, their heads are submerged in an electrified "stunning tank". This tank immobilizes them, but doesn't render most of them unconscious. After this their throats are slashed by a mechanical blade. Some birds are missed and continue on still conscious. The next step on the assembly line is the scalding tank. The turkeys are submerged in boiling water to remove their feathers.

Hanging upside down and shackled by their feet, turkeys enter the slaughterhouse.

Copyright © 2008-2015 by Wanda Embar. All Rights Reserved. Legal/Contact Me.
Turkey roast: free non-commercial use. Debeaked turkey by The Animals Voice.
Commercial/wild turkeys: Copyright © Wanda Embar, Vegan Peace. All other pictures by Farm Sanctuary.