Thanksgiving is full of traditions. There’s the gathering of family, holiday traffic snarls, pumpkin pie, a turkey feast and, of course, the annual presidential pardon of a very lucky turkey.
In a time-honored White House ceremony, President Barack Obama will pardon a turkey in the Rose Garden at 2pm Eastern Time. According to legend, the annual pardon stems from a moment of sympathy that President Abraham Lincoln’s son, Tad, had for their Thanksgiving turkey back in the 1860s. Pardons for turkeys were first formally instituted by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, according to the White House.
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This year President Obama will grant clemency to one of two birds who were raised for Cargill Value Added Meats Retail at Miller Farm in Rockingham County, Va. (although he’s expected to spare both). The pardon will save Cobbler and Gobbler from the fate of the 46 million other turkeys that Americans will eat during this year’s holiday.
In a statement the White House explained the turkey naming and selection process:
The names of the turkeys were chosen from submissions from elementary schools in Rockingham County, Virginia, where the turkeys were raised. Many of the submissions came from schools in agriculture-producing areas, where students have the chance to learn about the importance of agriculture to the world food supply and to our local economies. This year, for the first time ever, the American public decided which of the two turkeys – Cobbler or Gobbler – would become the 2012 National Thanksgiving Turkey by casting a vote via the White House Facebook page.
Ironically the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Ingrid Newkirk, has written a letter asking the White House to stop pardoning turkeys, according to Capitol Hill newsletter The Hill. Newkirk’s letter states, “Turkeys do not need to be ‘pardoned’—they are not guilty of anything other than being born into a world of prejudice. They are innocents who should be respected for who they are: good mothers, smart birds, and interesting animals.”
We’re guessing that for their part, Cobbler and Gobbler don’t mind sticking with tradition for one more year.
Watch President Obama pardon 2010’s lucky turkey, Apple: