/ 27 November 2008

Bush ‘pardons’ his last Thanksgiving turkey

With nostalgic words, US President George W Bush on Wednesday pardoned his last Thanksgiving turkey, which will now fly first-class to Disneyland in California instead of ending up on a dinner table.

With the necessary gravity and gobbling accompanying the ceremony, the outgoing president pardoned the bird, dubbed Pumpkin, and a backup bird, Pecan, who was nowhere to be seen, “in an undisclosed location”, Bush joked.

“In recent weeks I’ve talked a lot about sprinting to the finish. Yet I’ve assured these turkeys they will not be trotting to their finish,” Bush said on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, his last before his term ends in January.

“That’s because in keeping with a long-standing tradition, Pumpkin and Pecan are hereby granted a full and unconditional presidential pardon.”

Both birds will fly to Disneyland, where Pumpkin is set to be the honorary marshal of the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“Together, these birds will gobble the rest of their days in ‘the happiest place on earth’. I just hope they stay humble there,” Bush added.

But in a letter to Bush on Tuesday, animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) called on the president to send the turkeys to an animal sanctuary instead.

“You might be a lame duck, but you still have the power to help lame turkeys, who are made that way by the cruelty of the meat industry,” Peta president Ingrid Newkirk wrote.

The ceremony continued as planned, with families across America set to dine over a main course of turkey on Thursday.

Bush expressed his thanks to American troops and his family, noting that he was “looking forward to having another place at our Thanksgiving table with a son-in-law”, Henry Hager, new husband of Bush’s daughter Jenna.

The president is scheduled to spend the long Thanksgiving weekend at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland. – AFP