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There are eighteen million turkeys in Canada intensively reared for food. They’re bred to grow rapidly to their full weight in the shortest time in the least amount of space.
Turkeys are subjected to the same harsh conditions as chickens raised for meat. They are housed with thousands of other birds with no natural light and poor ventilation. They are in extremely crowded, barren environments. By the time they are slaughtered, each bird has two square feet of space and the barns become increasingly crowded as they grow. The litter on the floors is not changed so the floor is covered with feces causing ammonia buildup.
Due to the stress of overcrowding, the inability to move around and express natural behaviours, the painful physical conditions and the lack of social order, distress-driven behaviours such as feather pecking will result.
Factory-farmed turkeys 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 very quickly and to develop large breast muscles. The bird’s joints are unable to support their weight. Their hearts are stressed and they struggle with breathing.
Turkeys are subjected to painful husbandry practices. The practice of turkey debeaking is extremely painful and cruel. Turkey’s beaks contain many nerve endings. Male turkeys have their snood removed. Turkeys also have their flight wings trimmed, the tops of toes amputated and the long claw at the back of the foot (spur) removed. These procedures cause both short and long-term pain.
High levels of ammonia in industrial barns cause respiratory infections and sores. Turkeys suffer from ammonia burns to their eyes, respiratory tract, breasts and feet.
Turkeys are typically slaughtered at around 16 weeks of age. At slaughter, the birds, weighing 15 kg, are suspended upside-down by their feet in metal shackles on a moving line creating tremendous pain. 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. This method is still not widely used in Canada.