It is stupid, a lie that it is a “timeless tradition,” and it is one of the most incredible acts of senseless cruelty that I’ve ever read about.
It’s a sad truth. Because pardoned turkeys are bred to be robust showmen, they often live incredibly short lives. They are stuffed with a mineral-enhanced diet of corn and soybeans, and their complications are not unlike those of obese humans: heart disease, joint damage, respiratory failure, organ failure.
The turkeys we eat are bred to be obese freaks of nature, and they are miserable enough. But, the turkeys that wind up on TV with POTUS? They’re bred to be even fatter, even less healthy, all to look good on camera. They’re literally raised from birth to be the “pardoned turkey.”
Though celebrated as a kind-hearted gesture, the Presidential turkey pardon seems to be something of a Hunger Games-esque nightmare for the fowls involved, where even the “winners” aren’t really winners at all.
Read Priceonomics, The Miserable Life of the Presidential Turkey. (source) It talks all about the history of the “tradition,” and has more information about this issue than I would have imagined would even exist.