Keeping turkey off the table

Fun facts that will make loved ones think twice about eating turkey this Christmas

November is here, and that means Christmas preparations will begin before long! It's the time when everyone seems to start stocking up on treats and practicing their favourite roast dinner recipes, ready for the 'big' day. If you have friends and family who usually eat turkey during the festive season, they probably don't realise what loving and intelligent creatures they are.

Turkeys are remarkable birds, who can enjoy intelligent and social lives. But sadly, 15 million turkeys are killed in the UK each year, with nine million of these taking place over the Christmas period (peta.org) If anyone asks why you refrain from eating turkey (and other meat and dairy products) at Christmas time, share these facts with them. We guarantee it'll make them think twice about partaking in the cruel Christmas tradition.

They are social beings

Did you know that turkeys are affectionate creatures? Like dogs, they establish longlasting social bonds with one another. If removed from their flock, a turkey will squawk in protest until they are reunited with their friends (Scientific American Blog Network).

At six months old, male turkeys will separate from their mothers and sisters and will form life-long sibling groups (Scientific American Blog Network). In the summer, wild turkeys usually live in groups of up to 30 birds but come winter, these groups can grow up to 200.

Every flock has a hierarchal order; that of male groups' is constantly changing, but female hierarchy is generally stable. You will also find mother and poult flocks, where the hen will be very protective of her young (viva.org.uk).

According to an extensive study of wild turkeys in south-eastern Texas, US, researchers were amazed to discover that communities of the birds are 'characterised by an astonishing degree of social stratification, greater than had previously been seen in any society of vertebrates short of man' (nationalgeographic.com).

Turkeys can also form strong bonds with human companions - they love to be stroked and petted and will run up to people they recognise. They will remember your face and if they like you, some turkeys will come to you for cuddles. Another show of turkey's sociable tendencies is their love of play. If you throw an apple into a flock of turkeys, they will play with it like a football! (upc-online.org)

They talk to one another

Most people know that turkeys 'gobble', but the birds actually have more than 30 different and complex vocalizations. Turkeys can even recognise one another by their unique voices! (Turkey Calls and Calling). Each gobble, cluck, yelp and purr has a different function, for example, to warn each other of danger, keep the flock together or tell other turkeys about particularly good food.

During mating season, males use the well-known 'gobble' to attract females and repel other males. If a turkey becomes trapped somewhere, he or she will call out to their friends, who will run over to see what is happening (Turkey Calls and Calling). When turkeys roost at night, they will talk to one another using a special call, simply to make sure that the others are safe.

They are intelligent

Turkeys have a brilliant memory and will remember your face, as well as other turkeys within their flock - they are able to distinguish between turkeys from and outside of their group. The birds are also good at geography, and can learn the details of very large areas, which is extremely useful for finding food and safe areas to shelter or hide from predators.

Even after more than a year has passed, wild turkeys have been known to return to the same locations after feeding there (theatlantic.com). One fact that often surprises people, is that turkeys appreciate music - when played, they will cluck along!

(theguardian.com) Physically, turkeys are pretty intelligent creatures, too - they have a strong sense of hearing, even though they don't have ears. The birds also have a 300° field of vision, in full colour. Their powerful eyes can see movement up to 100 metres away.

The dangly 'snood' that wobbles on their neck is more than excess skin; the body part actually shows how a turkey is feeling, which is a very useful means of communication (The Turkey: An American Story).

Whenever a male turkey is feeling relaxed his snood will be pale and short, but if he begins a courtship strutting display, his snood will become engorged with blood, and it will become redder and elongated by several centimetres (viva.org.uk). This shows his readiness and desire to mate with a female.


The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.