Thursday, November 30, 2023

The odd tradition of the presidential turkey pardoning – watch live – BBC News

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Copyright: Abbie Rowe, White House Photographs/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

Image caption: President John F Kennedy gave an unofficial pardoning days before his assassination in 1963

The tradition can be traced back to President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

Historians claim he spared a turkey’s life after his son, Tad, befriended it.

But yearly pardoning became an “official” tradition only under George H W Bush, when the former president spared a turkey’s life in 1989 as animal-rights activists protested nearby.

Many people believe the custom was started 70 years ago by Harry Truman, because he was the first president to receive a turkey on behalf of the poultry industry as a whole.

His government launched a campaign in 1947 to encourage people to forego eating poultry and eggs on Thursdays, in order to conserve supplies to send to post-war Europe.

But Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day fell on Thursdays that year – causing outrage.

Other presidents before Bush Snr did spare birds lives, including President John F Kennedy – who gave an unofficial pardoning days before his assassination in 1963.

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