Turkeys: Who Are They, and Why Should We Care?
By Karen Davis
We adopted Amelia as a young turkey into our sanctuary from a local farmer. She lived with us for five years until her legs gave out, and we had to call our veterinarian to put her to rest, surrounded by her friends in the yard. Until then she hung out happily with the chickens and ducks, and when people visited, she'd fan out her white tail feathers and stroll amiably beside them.
Amelia chose a leafy spot to lay her eggs, and there she would sit quietly in the spring and early summer. She loved being outside with the ducks in the evenings, poking around until the last glimmer of sinking sunlight. At last, she and they would amble into their house and join the chickens who were already perched for the night.
I believe Amelia would have made a wonderful mother, but our sanctuary policy does not allow bringing new birds into the world from which ours is a refuge. That said, it helps to know that turkeys are excellent mothers and that in nature, the young birds, known as poults, stay close to her for nearly half a year. When the maternal family is on the move and one poult peeps his or her distress, the mother bird clucks reassuringly, and if the peeping persists, she rushes to comfort her little one.
Amelia, the rescued turkey. United Poultry Concerns
When her poults grow tired and cold, they tell her so, and she crouches to warm and comfort them under her great, enveloping wings. If, when traveling as a unit through the woods and fields, a youngster happens to stray, intent on his own pursuit, on discovering that he is alone, the poult straightens up, looks keenly about, listens intently, and calls anxiously to his mother. Biologists call this a "lost call"—the call of the frightened young turkey upon perceiving that he is alone. When the mother bird answers her errant youngster's searching cry, he calls back to her in relief, opens up his wings, flaps them joyfully and runs to rejoin his family.
Amelia, the rescued turkey. United Poultry Concerns
In nature, baby turkeys start talking to their mother while they are still inside their eggs nestled with their brothers and sisters in the deep warmth of her feathers. They know her, her voice and each other long before they hatch. Whenever I think of turkeys in the mechanical incubators and the beak-mutilation "servicing" rooms, and all the horrors that follow, I imagine the lost calls of all the turkeys that will never be answered. For them, there will never be a joyous flapping of wings or a family reunited and on the move in the wooded places they so love to explore.
Sanctuary workers like myself who've come to know turkeys bred for the meat industry know that these birds have not lost their ancestral desire to perch, mate, walk, run and be sociable—and even to swim. We know that their inability to mate properly does not result from a loss of desire to do so, but from human-caused disabilities, including the fact that their claws and much of their beaks were cut off or burned off at the hatchery, making it hard for them to hold on to anything. Like Amelia, they're susceptible to painful degenerative leg disorders that limit their spontaneous activity and cause them to age long before their natural 15-year lifespan.
Turkeys are emotional birds whose moods can be seen in their demeanor and in the pulsing colors of their faces, which turn blue, purple or red depending on what they are feeling. An emotional behavior in turkeys is the "great wake" a group will hold over a fallen companion in the natural world and on factory farms. When, as frequently happens on factory farms, a bird has a convulsive heart attack, several others will surround their dead companion and suddenly die themselves, suggesting a sensibility toward one another that should awaken us to how terribly we treat them, and make us stop.
Observers have marveled at the great speed of sound transplantation from one bird to another within a flock at a moment's danger, and the pronounced degree of simultaneous gobbling of adult male turkeys in proximity to one another. One bird having begun, the others follow him so quickly that the human ear cannot figure which bird launched the chorus or caused it to cease.
Turkeys love to play and have fun. In his book Illumination in the Flatwoods: A Season with the Wild Turkey, naturalist Joe Hutto describes how on August mornings his 3-month-old turkeys, on seeing him, would drop down from their roosting limbs where they had sat "softly chattering" in the dawn, "stretch their wings and do their strange little dance, a joyful happy dance, expressing an exuberance."
A witness who chanced upon an evening dance of adult turkeys wrote of hearing them calling. No, he said, they were not calling strayed members of their flock. They were just having "a twilight frolic before going to roost. They kept dashing at one another in mock anger, stridently calling all the while. ... Their notes were bold and clear."
For about five minutes, according to this witness, the turkeys "played on the brown pine-straw floor of the forest, then as if at a signal, they assumed a sudden stealth and stole off in the glimmering shadows."
We once had two female turkeys in our sanctuary, Mila and Priscilla. Though the same age of a few months old, they were very different from each other. Mila was calm and gentle, whereas Priscilla was moody with emotional burdens, including anger. When Priscilla got into her angry mood, her head pulsed purple colors and her yelps sounded a warning as she glared at my husband and me with combat in her demeanor, ready to charge and perhaps bite us.
What stopped her was Mila. Perking up her head at the signals, Mila would enter directly into the path between Priscilla and us, and block her. She would tread back and forth in front of Priscilla, uttering soft pleading yelps as if beseeching her not to charge. Sure enough, Priscilla would gradually calm down in response to the peacemaker's inhibiting signals.
Turkeys come into the nation's consciousness as caricatures and corpses at Thanksgiving, and then they're forgotten until the next year rolls around. Yet turkeys are being slaughtered every single day of the year, much more often than for Thanksgiving alone, for which around 45 million birds will perish. For thousands of turkeys—242.5 million were slaughtered in 2017 in the U.S., according to the National Turkey Federation—every single day is "Thanksgiving," a never-ending harvest of horror.
Instead of calling Thanksgiving "Turkey Day," let's make it a turkey-free day and show our thanks by making peace with our feathered friends.
Karen Davis, Ph.D. is the president and founder of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization and sanctuary for chickens in Virginia that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. Karen is the author of More Than A Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality, Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry, and The Holocaust and the Henmaid's Tale: A Case for Comparing Atrocities. She has been inducted into the National Animal Rights Hall of Fame for Outstanding Contributions to Animal Liberation.
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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