Unless you don’t eat meat, a turkey is the traditional must-have every Thanksgiving. While your gamgam might continually and consistently overcook the bird in the oven, it doesn’t even matter, because we are celebrating our friends and family with a feast and all the traditions that go along with it.
Around 45 million turkeys a year are cooked just for Thanksgiving dinner. Slaughtering mass-produced turkeys specifically raised as food might seem inhumane enough to most of us, but what about throwing them out of airplanes? That’s what happens in Yellville, Arkansas during their annual Turkey Trot festival.
And rightfully so, animal rights activists and many other are flapping their wings over it. What do you think?
The Turkey Trot in Yellville has been celebrated on the second Friday and Saturday of October every year since 1946. It started out as a way to bring attention to area’s large amount of wild turkeys.
Originally, there was the “Turkey Toss,” where live turkeys were thrown off the roof of the courthouse. In 1960, it was replaced by the “Turkey Drop,” where the live turkeys are thrown out of a low-flying plane that circles around the festival.
But wait, I know what you’re thinking: Why? The reasoning was that since turkeys can fly (albeit ungracefully) for short distances, they would land in other areas where they could help increase the wild turkey populations. Of course some birds would die on impact, but those that survived were chased around like a prize.
During the ’70s and ’80s, animal rights activists got wind of this tradition and threatened to sue. In 1990, the town of Yellville, Arkansas stopped mentioning the Turkey Drop in flyers and ads, but they continued on with what they claimed was an important Ozark tradition.
“We treat the turkeys right. That may sound ironic, but we don’t abuse those turkeys. We coddle and pet those turkeys. We’re good to them,” local pilot and “turkey releaser” Dana Woods said in defense of the event.
Town judge Terry Ott said that the Drop is “important to the community” and “brings in a lot of money.”
Even the FAA got into the debate. The organization made a ruling this year: “FAA regulations do not specifically prohibit dropping live animals from aircrafts, possibly because the authors of the regulation never anticipated that an explicit prohibition would be necessary,” an FAA spokesman told Huffington Post. “This does not mean we endorse the practice.”
The town did skip The Drop from 2012 to 2014, and PETA thought they had won. But of course, the tradition came back.
While the Turkey Drop isn’t widely known, PETA members and other groups are trying to spread the word via social media:
“Ok. One of the longest traditions in #Yellville #TurkeyDrop
But why do they need yearly checking that a wild turkey flies like an iron?!” @GarnierOriginal
“Town where there’s ‘little action’ so this is their entertainment #shameful” @chortletown
“STOP the turkey drop this is barbaric resembles the dark ages in terms of ignorance, savage mentality and animal cruelty. Live turkeys are thrown out of airplane” @codenbugs
“Yellville, ARKANSAS is a most perverted town. To these people, THIS IS FUN? #sick” @BaronessGabi
It seems that not many outsiders agree with Yellville.
Even celebs are chiming in…