Turkeys are intensively reared for efficient production of meat. The goal is to grow the biggest bird in the shortest time for the lowest cost in the least amount of space. The birds are treated like production units.
The life of a turkey is much like that of a “broiler” or meat chicken. They are housed with thousands of other birds, often with no natural light and poor ventilation. They live in extremely crowded, barren environments. By the time they are slaughtered, each bird has approximately two square feet of space, with the barns becoming increasingly crowded as they grow. The litter on the floors is not changed during the turkeys’ stay, so the floor is covered with feces.
Due to the stress of overcrowding, fighting and aggression, feather pecking can result, so turkeys usually have their beaks cut without anaesthetic. Some male turkeys have their snoods (part of the wattle) removed to reduce cannibalism.
Factory farmed turkeys can suffer a rash of physical problems. They are susceptible to foot ulcerations and lameness from the wet, litter-covered floors. Turkeys are bred to gain weight and are fed a high-nutrient diet, often resulting in the birds’ joints and muscles being unable to support their weight.
Because turkeys have been bred to grow so large, breeding parent birds are unable to breed naturally, requiring the use of invasive artificial insemination.
Turkeys are typically slaughtered between 12 and 26 weeks. At slaughter, the birds are suspended upside-down by their feet in metal shackles on a moving line. Turkeys can weigh up to 28 kilograms at slaughter, so the pain of being hung upside is considerable. The birds are intended to be stunned in an electrified water bath before having their throats cut, but not all birds are in the proper position for stunning and neck cutting, and some enter the scald tank (to remove their feathers) still alive and conscious. A more stress-free method of killing is Controlled Atmosphere Killing using inert gas.
To read more about industrial farming of turkeys, download our fact sheet.
Download the french version of our fact sheet (pdf file).
To read about Controlled Atmosphere Killing, click here for PETA’s report.
Read the report Broken Wings by Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals.