Unique to the Americas, the two species of turkey are beautiful, huge birds. Wild Turkeys are native to North America, while Oscillated Turkeys can be found in Central America. Close to extinction in the early part of the 20th Century, Wild Turkeys have made a tremendous comeback in their original range, and have been widely introduced elsewhere. While not native to Oregon, the Rio Grande race of Wild Turkey was introduced in 1975 and is faring well in much of the state.
Turkeys are known to most people not as a wild creature, or even so much as a food, but as a centerpiece on the table at Thanksgiving. It is tradition to serve these birds on that day. But when does a tradition become a ritual? It seems a bit creepy to me to sacrificially kill and eat a particular species on a particular day, just because we have always done so. Most people have never seen a Wild Turkey, or even a living domesticated one, and yet they perpetuate this rite without considering it.
I think turkeys can be far better appreciated in the field than on the table. On a day set aside to acknowledge the abundance of life, we should celebrate living beings, not sacrificial ones.
These are free-ranging Wild Turkeys in northeastern Oregon.
These are “free range” domestic turkeys. Selective breeding has made them into obese, pale shadows of their wild ancestors.