Contrary to popular opinion, President Obama has not forced two turkeys to duke it out for the privilege of living another day.
This year, the White House launched an online campaign asking Americans to choose which of two turkeys -- Caramel or Popcorn -- would receive a presidential pardon come Thanksgiving. You can read see pictures of the turkeys, read facts about them (Popcorn apparently likes Beyoncé), and even listen to the turkeys’ gobbles. There are even hashtags asking which turkey Americans side with. At first glance, it all appeared like a cute little contest.
But then, many Americans let the horrifying implications sink in. To save the life of one turkey, must you condemn the other to a horrible death? Did President Obama just give America front row seats to a very cute turkey Thunderdome? Two turkeys enter, two turkeys leave -- but one of them is deep fried and stuffed with dressing?
Thankfully, that’s not actually what’s happening. Both turkeys will survive the ordeal, though maybe not unscathed.
Every year since 1947, the National Turkey Federation sends over two plump birds to the White House. And every year since 1989, the president publicly pardons one turkey in a mock ceremony. In reality though, both birds delivered by the National Turkey Federation have received a full pardon in recent years (almost all birds sent over before 1989 were definitely killed and eaten, however).
So no matter whether you choose to save Caramel or Popcorn, both turkeys will live to see another day. Instead, the winning turkey will simply get a chance to appear on television with President Obama. It’s more American Idol than Thunderdome. Of course, being birds, neither Caramel nor Popcorn will fully appreciate or even understand the honor of a personal photo-op with the president.
Still, just because Caramel and Popcorn will make it through the White House kitchens unscathed, that doesn’t mean they’ll be living long and happy lives, either. As the Washington Post notes, domestically-raised turkeys are bred specifically to be as obese and tasty as possible. No wild turkey has ever come close to the 37 pounds that Popcorn and Caramel weigh, and health problems resulting from their weight will likely kill them before their second turkey birthdays. So, pardon or not, die they will. But of course, the White House website doesn't say that.