Here’s a little holiday reading: Annie Lowrey travelled to the Turkey Trot in Yellville for the Atlantic to offer florid descriptions of the Ozarks and ruminations on ethics and empathy.
No turkeys were tossed from planes this year at the longtime festival, held last month, which has generated controversy for years for the ritualistic practice of flinging live turkeys out planes traveling 70 miles an hour at altitudes of 500 feet or higher. Some of the disoriented birds managed to survive, some met gruesome ends. This year, the festival’s new sponsor had enough and decided to focus on more wholesome business, like the Miss Drumsticks pageant. Lowrey checks in to see how the community is responding to the change.
Lowrey takes the opportunity to reflect on our tendency to compartmentalize our measure of cruelty when it comes to the beasts and creeping things and fowls that creep upon the earth.
I felt nothing for the turkeys whose legs were for sale at the Yellville turkey drop, and nothing for the birds in the surrounding hills—even when I knew they were sitting, crowded by their neighbors, legs broken and beak cut, awaiting the electric bath and the scalding tank and the dinner table. I felt nothing for the turkey toms threshed to death as soon as they were born. I felt something for the birds chucked out of the plane, flapping wildly to try to stay upright. I felt something for the birds panting and panicking when caught by children below, pinned down with their heavy breasts and thick thighs and thin bones. I felt perhaps too much for George, that fabulous ham of a turkey that had rushed out to greet me but was too shy to take some tomato out of my hand.
To think this way and to feel this way is, of course, to be human. To paraphrase Joseph Stalin, one turkey thrown out of a plane is a tragicomedy; 46 million turkeys killed in a slaughterhouse is Thanksgiving dinner. You can hold the suffering of one being in your head and your heart, but the suffering of many becomes static.