(CNSNews.com) - Animal rights activists are asking Americans to follow President Bush's example and "pardon" turkeys from being part of their Thanksgiving celebrations.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has begun a new campaign that was inspired by the annual ceremony in which the president pardons turkeys in the Rose Garden.
The effort is using billboards with the president's face on the left and the image of a turkey on the right. In the middle is the question: "If he can pardon one, won't you?"
Another aspect of the campaign is a print ad that contains the same picture of a turkey as the billboard, with the headline: "Pardon me!"
"Every year at Thanksgiving, the president pardons two turkeys while Americans eat approximately 45 million others who are just as deserving of compassion and respect," states the message at pardontheturkeys.com, a site run by PETA.
"They feel no less pain than the two who were spared or their wild cousins, whom Ben Franklin admired for their resourcefulness, agility and beauty," the statement continues. "Sadly, most people view turkeys nowadays as little more than a holiday centerpiece."
The site claims that turkeys face "cruel and unusual punishment" on farms that force the birds to spend their lives in filthy, overcrowded sheds, where heart attacks, contagious diseases and skeletal deformities run rampant, and where the animals are bred and drugged to produce abnormal amounts of flesh.
Eating turkey and other meats can put humans on "death row," too, according to PETA President Ingrid Newkirk: "Meat consumption has been linked to heart disease, strokes, obesity, diabetes, cancer and food poisoning from such deadly bacteria as salmonella and E. coli.
"Holidays should be a celebration of life, not a death sentence," Newkirk explained. "The idea of the presidential turkey pardoning speaks to the human desire to be kind rather than cruel, but of course, no turkeys have done anything to deserve the abuse and death sentence that we're handing down by eating them.
"We're encouraging Americans to follow Lauren Bush's example and pardon all farmed animals by adopting a vegetarian diet," Newkirk added.
Currently, PETA plans to post one such billboard near President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, and another in Houston, while the print ad runs in a Washington newspaper.
This effort to "pardon" turkeys isn't the first time PETA has urged people to be "compassionate conservatives" when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner. In November 2001 at Washington's Reagan National Airport, PETA workers wearing only bikinis made of plastic lettuce leaves handed out pamphlets explaining conditions at the nation's turkey farms.
At the time, David Almasi, spokesman for the National Center for Public Policy Research, said PETA chose the wrong holiday to criticize.
"PETA has to remember that this is a holiday based on the Pilgrims and the Indians working together to overcome the adversity of the harsh winter and celebrating that they have been able to work with the earth to sustain themselves and the earth," Almasi said. "If anything, this is one of the greatest [politically correct] holidays, as far as the environment is concerned."
Almasi said the effort was "just another attempt by PETA to get into the press. One thing you can say about them is that they are a constant P.R. machine, and they have some genius people working there to make sure that every event in our lives affects their animal rights campaign."
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