In Minnesota, turkeys pay their sentence in full

Gov. Mark Dayton and turkey

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and a turkey celebrate Thanksgiving in very different ways during a ceremony this week in St. Paul. Minnesota Turkey Growers will donate 10,000 pounds of turkey to the Salvation Army, which is seeing a huge increase in food demand this year due to federal food program cuts. PHOTO: via governor’s website

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, the odd American ritual endures in which various leaders “pardon” turkeys before the big meal on Thursday. President Obama will pardon two Minnesota turkeys this week in keeping with the old tradition. The farm that is providing these turkeys for the ceremonial pardon selected the three best behaved birds in their lot. The top two got to go to D.C. for the pardon. After that they’ll be the grand marshals at the Disney World Thanksgiving parade in Florida.

The third tom turkey, the one that was almost as well-behaved as the others, was put in a cage and brought to St. Paul yesterday, where he got a much different verdict from Gov. Mark Dayton. Gov. Dayton joined the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association to announce a major donation of turkey to the Salvation Army before the holiday season. More than 10,000 pounds of meat will help feed thousands of families this November and December. Sitting there, in a cage, was the third bird. Gov. Dayton patted the turkey and told it, to its face, that it would be turned into a meal within 48 hours.

(Well, to be fair, he merely told the turkey he was “going to the Salvation Army in St. Paul,” so maybe the turkey thinks it’s going thrift shopping.)

The president is expected to bestow names upon the doomed turkeys siblings. The governor did not name his turkey, but did let it out of the cage for a time before it was shipped back to the farm.

Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein remarked this week on the stupidity of the turkey pardoning tradition. Millions of birds are raised, slaughtered and eaten in the turkey industry; why are we sugar-coating that fact? Also, Klein points out, that turkey pardoning only caught on after President Reagan did it to distract from the Iran Contra scandal.

Well, in Minnesota, we tell it like it is … with ice water in our veins.

That turkey went to live on a farm, kids. Briefly.

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