Turkeys on commercial farms have been bred to grow so large that they cannot mate naturally. On turkey breeding farms, which are massive warehouse-style sheds packed full of birds, workers masturbate male turkeys, collect their semen, and forcibly inseminate turkey hens in a violent procedure that involves holding them upside down and shoving a syringe into their vaginas. Their eggs are collected for incubation at industrial hatcheries.
At hatcheries, baby turkeys, called poults, are treated like unfeeling plastic toys rather than living animals who experience fear and pain. Still searching for their mothers, just-hatched turkeys are roughly dumped from incubator trays onto conveyor belts made of rolling metal bars whose movement separates the newborn poults from pieces of egg shell.
Further down, workers shove baby turkeys’ faces into a “beak cutting” machine with the casual gesture of inserting a beer bottle into a wall-mounted bottle opener. Their sensitive beak ends — the sensory input equivalent of human fingertips — are removed with an infrared beam or a hot blade. Portions of their toes are sliced off. These mutilations, inflicted without painkiller or anesthesia, are not only legal, but are part of standard “processing” on commercial turkey farms.
Many baby turkeys are further mangled by machinery or injured by careless workers during processing. Injured poults, along with baby turkeys who are sick or deemed too small, are considered waste and are thrown into a machine called a macerator that is like a giant woodchipper. They are ground up alive. Just as with the billions of male chicks ground alive by the egg industry, the grinding up of conscious turkeys is considered “humane euthanasia.” While some consumers turn to small farms or so-called “humane” labels in an attempt to avoid these practices, the truth is there is no such thing as a cruelty-free turkey dinner. Our story about Amy the turkey is a case in point of how poorly even so-called “humanely raised” turkeys fare. Please learn more at our feature, 12 Reasons You May Never Want to Eat Turkey Again.