One of the two turkeys President Obama pardoned in 2011 did not make it to see his second Thanksgiving, as the bird came down with a mysterious illness and died Monday.
Peace, the second turkey pardoned last year alongside Liberty, was euthanized Monday night at the Mount Vernon estate in Virginia where it had been living. A spokesperson for the estate said they had to euthanize the turkey for humanitarian reasons after it became “extremely ill” over the weekend.
Peace served as the understudy to Liberty in 2011, meaning it was only supposed to be pardoned had Liberty become sick or been otherwise unable to participate in the pardoning ceremony. Obama ultimately decided to pardon both birds, sparing them from becoming the main course in someone’s Thanksgiving meal.
According to the Huffington Post, the seemingly untimely death is not abnormal. Both fo the turkey’s Obama pardoned in 2010 died within a year. As the site also noted, a 2003 ABC News segment discovered that most pardoned turkeys last only a few months, with some not even lasting that long.
One potential cause of the short life spans is the way farm-raised turkeys are bred to be far fatter than their wild counterparts. While turkeys bred for consumption weigh upwards of 40 pounds each, wild turkeys typically weigh half that.
Some form of presidential turkey ceremony has taken place for roughly a century, though the official pardoning has only been in practice since 1989. President’s Eisenhower and Johnson, in fact, were known to eat the turkeys given to them for Thanksgiving.
According to CNN, no foul play is suspected in the death, though a slew of puns are sure to follow regardless.
Jon Terbush is a Boston-based writer whose work has appeared in Talking Points Memo, Business Insider, the New Haven Register, and elsewhere. He tweets about politics, cats, and baseball via @jonterbush.
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