Live Turkeys Dropped from Plane During Arkansas Turkey Trot Festival
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October 18, 2016 – A 71-year old tradition recently resumed over the objections of animal rights advocates but to the delight of many residents of Yellville, Arkansas. The tiny mountain town has been dropping turkeys out of the sky, with a few exceptions for inclement weather and/or public outcry, for generations as part of the town’s annual “Turkey Trot Festival.”
“They’re birds. They can fly.”
The local alderman and amateur pilot responsible for “releasing” the birds from 500 feet above insists the turkey drop is perfectly humane and that the turkeys are well treated.
“They can fly a long ways. 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. They’re not going to crash. They’re birds. They can fly.”
(Of the 6 turkeys dropped this year, 5 survived.)
The townspeople’s attachment to the local bird population nothwithstanding, some have expressed misgivings over throwing a bunch of live turkeys out of the back of an airplane midflight. One resident, quoting a professor from a nearby university specializing in poultry science, explained that the average turkey finding itself a part of the turkey drop would react poorly:
“Placing turkeys in an environment that is new to them is stressful. In the case of an airplane, the noise would also be a stress-producing fear reaction. Dropping one from 500 feet is a horrific act of abuse.”
While an Arkansas Times poll suggests the practice of airdropping live turkeys has fallen out of favor, 23% of respondents expressed that the activity was an “important” local tradition. A spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration fell short of endorsing the event but did point out that the turkey drop did not expressly violate any FAA regulations. In contrast, a PETA spokesperson was staunchly opposed to the “backward” stunt, condemning the event’s organizers and vowing legal action:
“A plane dropped live turkeys out of the sky, causing the death of two frightened birds — who, sadly enough, were indeed someone’s property, and we promise that there will be repercussions.”
Turkeys in the wild can reach speeds of up to 50mph but typically fly at an altitude of no more than 100 feet.
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