For turkeys, Christmas is an ominous time of year. According to the University of Illinois’ “Turkey Facts” division, a whopping 22 million end up on the dinner table every holiday season. This is in addition to the unfortunate 46 million that fail to make it through Thanksgiving, and the 19 million that never see the other side of Easter. To put it mildly, we like to eat turkey. A lot.
Given how partial we all are to oversized poultry, you’d have thought that we’d be comfortable with the inevitable, grisly conclusion to the turkey farming process. It’s not as if birds happily pluck and package themselves when they sense a major holiday approaching. So, when a farm in the Southwest of England announced a new initiative, encouraging customers to choose their own turkey and “help look after it for the next two months”, they might have been justified in expecting people to be fairly indifferent to the concept of careful rearing followed by slaughter. As the following weeks have proven, they were sorely mistaken.
In response to Greendale Farm Shop’s bright new idea, the small business suddenly found themselves overwhelmed with angry responses from sensitive social media users. These varied from coarse language, to full on death threats. The irony of an animal lover wanting to kill someone for their line of work seems to have been largely lost on the perpetrators.
The original post, which reassured customers that they wouldn’t “need to get involved in any of the difficult bits at the end,” and added that the farm would “even bone and stuff it for you when you come and pick it up,” soon attracted over 2000, alarmingly anti-turkey-eating comments. “This is despicable. The ultimate betrayal as companions on this earth. Turkey's are extremely loving and intelligent animals, you should all be ashamed of yourselves,” one reply read, clearly forgetting how delicious they are when served with some sage and onion stuffing and a roast potato.
Normally, online hysteria would be worrying enough for a business such as Greendale Farm Shop. As it turned out, the trouble was just beginning. The morning after the post was published, farm labourers arrived to find the words “MURDER” and “GO VEGAN” spray painted on the front door of the shop. Throughout the day, Greendale were bombarded by a stream of furious phone calls, culminating in a threat to “cut-up” the business’ butcher and sell him back to customers. The butcher in question may be many things, but we doubt that he’s as delicious as a plump Greendale turkey.
Despite the flood of vitriolic abuse, farm owner Mat Carter elected to stand firm. In an interview with “Devon Live”, he revealed that after the initial PR “disaster”, he had become more convinced than ever that the post needed to remain. “I strongly stand by our whole position on this,” he said. “Fundamentally, we are fishermen and farmers and I think anybody who eats meat should know where it comes from. I'm not going to remove the post or stop being a farmer because we've had a bit of opposition from vegan groups.”
The Greendale story just goes to show that there is a growing disconnect between many of us and our food. If we want to eat meat, killing things is a part of the process. We are natural omnivores. But, if we can’t stomach the idea of a business trying to bring us back into contact with the reality of what that means, maybe we need to reappraise what we stand for. If knowing that a turkey had to die for you to enjoy Thanksgiving is too much for you to handle, I suggest a bit of re-education is in order.