When one thinks of Christmas, one thinks of family, togetherness, giving and… eating, actually scratch that most of us solely think about the food. Whether you like sprouts, parsnips or those little chipolatas with the bacon wrapped round it, you know the really delicious ones… but either way I digress: amongst all the festive fare, turkey takes centre stage come the 25th.
Turkey rarely gets a look in outside of December and maybe that’s why calls for welfare are oft quieter than the rancour for say, the removal of caged eggs, a concern that penetrated the public consciousness and spurred on a massive revolution in the corporate sphere.
Roughly 18 million turkeys are eaten each year in the UK. 10 million of which at Christmas and their welfare is rarely taken into serious consideration. Only 4% of British turkeys met the requirements for the RSPCA Freedom Food certification in 2012. About 90% in the UK are reared indoors, where up to 25,000 turkeys occupy a single purpose-built shed or a converted farm building, typically these structures are barren save the feeders and drinkers.
Issues that plague the wellbeing of turkeys up and down the country include pecking when in close proximity, which can occasionally lead to the death of some turkeys and in some cases cannibalism. Turkey’s are often transported in cramp conditions that stress and traumatise them and lead to more pecking. Turkeys need space or they may get food pad lesions, an affliction that comes from standing or sitting on litter strewn with ammonia.
The RSPCA lists key requirements to improve turkey standards including but not limited to, sufficient space for exercise and natural daylight, as this allows turkeys to act as they would in nature. Cover on the range to encourage free-range birds to go outside and a vet health and welfare plan at every slaughterhouse.
This Christmas think about where your turkey comes from. Check the label, make sure it’s organic.