Welcome to the annual DawnWatch turkey rescue. On this page you’ll find a youtube video of the 2016 turkey rescue, which includes a little retrospective of previous years. If you need a higher res version, still photos, or would like to get in touch for an interview, please shoot me an email via the “Contact” tab at the top of this page. I will respond quickly.
This year I have the pleasure of introducing you to Tracey and Ellie Turkey, named for animal advocate Tracey Stewart, who with her husband Jon Stewart is in the process of founding a farm sanctuary, and for superstar singer Ellie Goulding, who has given vegan living such a beautiful voice.
Tracey and Ellie Turkey came from the local slaughter industry, destined for Thanksgiving dinner, and will be at ours, as guests of honor - at the table rather than on it. The only turkey on our Thanksgiving table is a bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon!
After the holidays Tracey and Ellie will retire to Farm Sanctuary in Acton. They’ll live out their lives as turkey ambassadors, greeting guests and teaching them that turkeys are interesting and affectionate individuals, who, like all beings, are just looking for love.
I do this as a fun way to send out a serious message. Most people would be unaware that most animal cruelty laws exempt farm animals and allow for anything considered "standard agricultural practice." For turkeys, that means having their beaks seared off and the ends of their toes cut off so that they don't rip each other apart when they are crammed together on factory farms. And turkeys, like all poultry, are not even covered under federal humane slaughter laws – it's as if they aren't even animals. But my rescue videos make it clear that they are indeed animals, who love kindness and affection.
I hope you'll enjoy watching them bathed, blow-dried, cuddled and loved, reminding people that
"Turkey day is loads of fun when the turkeys are alive and well.”
Hi, I am Karen Dawn. I run the animal advocacy site DawnWatch.com and I wrote Thanking the Monkey, Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals. But in my neighborhood I am known as the turkey lady because this will be the fourth year in a row that there will be beautiful live turkeys strolling around my front yard over the Thanksgiving season.
First there were Bruce and Emily, named after the actors Bruce Greenwood and vegan beauty Emily Deschanel, who helped me retire her namesake to Animal Acres.
Next there were Monty and Marsha. Marsha did her best to support the reputation turkeys have for being test. But Monty was the smartest and most sociable animal I have ever met. Wherever we were is where Monty wanted to be, especially in the midst of parties -- Monty might be the only turkey on the Getty Images celebrity site! He gobbles when you call his name. Now he spends his days entertaining children at the Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita.
Last year's Ellen and Portia, named for the vegan ambassadors Ellen DeGeneres and Portia Di Rossi, are the sweetest and cuddliest little gals you'll ever meet.
My love affair with turkeys began years ago when I visited the Poplar Spring Farm Animal Sanctuary and fell in love with Olivia. You are actually watching me now more recently with Opal at Poplar Spring. I was so surprised to learn that turkeys love to be petted and cuddled.
I was even more surprised when I learned about the conditions in which Olivia had been raised, and learned that the animal welfare act, which regulates humane housing, does not cover any animal who will used for food. I learned that her toes had been cut off and the end of her beak had been seared off, because animal cruelty laws exempt any practice considered standard, and indeed those practices are standard on factory farms where the birds are crammed in so close their claws and beaks will injure each other's lucrative flesh.
I soon also learned that our federal humane slaughter laws exempt birds, who are about ninety five percent of the animals slaughtered for food in this country. So turkeys are thrown around, bones breaking, and then are shackled onto conveyor belts fully conscious -- where their throats are slit. Once you've spent time with a turkey and found out how sweet and affectionate they can be, its hard to believe that its legal to treat them that way.
Wanting to do something to help, I started to adopt turkeys on line at Thanksgiving and you can too: Just go to Farm Sanctuary's AdoptaTurkey.org.
But eventually I got a chance to take some home and now I can't imagine Turkey Day without live turkeys.
This years turkeys are named after newlyweds Russell Brand and Katy Perry who recently tweeted that they went vegan after seeing the terrific film Forks Over Knives. The turkeys were originally named Russell and Katy but when Katy let out a very loud, and very male gobble, we realized we had better rename her, or indeed rename HIM, so Russell and Perry they are.
I have the turkey routine down now: They come to me pretty stinky -- often covered in excrement from their cage-mates, so they get a bath get in my claw foot tub -- which gets disinfected afterwards. Then they get a blow-dry which they seem to love. Turkeys are pretty much waterproof -- their beautiful soft down is protected by thick outer feathers so if you are going to wash the layers underneath you have to blow-dry them or they just won't dry.
Next they come downstairs to meet the neighbors, who I hear are consuming a lot more Tofurky these days. The children love them and it seems to be mutual. I have a constant stream of neighborhood kids at my place during November. And Paula Pitbull does well with them too.
After a long first day they go to bed in their little heated coop. Here's my neighbor Frankie helping me tuck them in on their first night.
After the holidays Russell and Perry will go to Farm Sanctuary's Animal Acres, in Acton, where you can visit them on Sundays. But first they'll join us here for our very vegan Thanksgiving feast.
They'll supervise my meal preparations -- and on Thanksgiving Day they'll be at the table instead of on it. The only turkey on the table will be Wild Turkey bourbon, right next to a photo of Olivia, my first turkey love. I am so glad to have found a whole new way to celebrate Turkey Day -- its a lot more fun for everybody when the turkeys are alive and well. I think my neighbor Frankie said it simplest and best: "Turkeys are nice." Yes indeed Frankie, turkeys are nice.
Here's our YouTube video. You should be able to watch (or capture) it on YouTube. Please email me, via the contact link at the top of this page, if you need an MP4 or high resolution of some of the bath and blowdry shots for b roll.
Below are low res photos from previous rescue operations. We have some available, in high res, of this year's rescue too. Just shoot me an email via the contact form.