Each year, Yellville, Arkansas, holds its Turkey Trot Festival.
As part of this tradition, live turkeys have been dropped from airplanes for more than 50 years in what's known as the "turkey drop."
Animal welfare groups have argued for decades that the practice of dropping turkeys from more than 500 feet in the air is inhumane.
Yvonne Thaxton, a professor of poultry science at the University of Arkansas, recently opened up about the event, stating that, "Placing turkeys in an environment that is new to them is stressful. In the case of an airplane, the noise would also be a stress-producing fear reaction. Dropping one from 500 feet is a horrific act of abuse. There is no justification for this practice."
Fans of the annual turkey drop counter that turkeys can fly and that most of these birds survive the fall.
Bill Bowden at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported from this year's event. "Initially," he writes, "the birds dropped straight down for a bit. Then most of them got their bearings, spread their wings, and glided to a landing." Of the six turkeys dropped, one died on impact, while two survivors were caught by locals.
Barb Klug, a 66-year-old woman from nearby Bull Shoals, claimed the dead turkey.
Bowden quotes Klug as saying, "This will be the first Thanksgiving dinner we've had in years. I nearly killed myself doing it. I jumped over that concrete fence, landed real hard, and I might have passed out for a minute."
PETA has offered $5,000 for information leading to an arrest, but local laws seem to support the bizarre tradition.
Despite the small but mighty contingent that keeps the ritual up and running, it may be short-lived. Blogs like the Arkansas Times repeatedly call it an embarrassment that they hope will end soon.
It's disturbing that some families need to rely on the chance of catching a dropped turkey to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. We can only hope that a more humane system is put in place and that the town's annual turkey drop is eventually phased out.
(via Arkansas Times)