In case you’re unfamiliar with the annual Yellville, Arkansas “turkey drop,” it’s pretty much what it sounds like: A handful of turkeys are picked up and dropped into a nice cozy bed of fruit and nuts where they spend Thanksgiving afternoon eating to their heart’s content.
Just kidding, it’s when a bunch of yokels chuck Thanksgiving fowl out of an airplane flying at around 500 feet, sans tiny turkey parachutes.
Not surprisingly, in recent years this annual “tradition” has been met with opposition from animal rights groups. As well as social media users after an Arkansas Times blog post condemning the drop went viral in 2016.
Now the FAA has officially weighed in on the issue, saying:
“FAA regulations do not specifically prohibit dropping live animals from aircraft, possibly because the authors of the regulation never anticipated that an explicit prohibition would be necessary. This does not mean we endorse the practice.”
“Our regulations only cover ‘objects,’ and specify that they can be dropped from aircraft as long as they don’t pose a danger to people or property on the ground. In this case, investigators determined that the pilot did not violate FAA safety regulations because the turkeys were dropped over a creek and a park, well away from crowds at the festival.”
Last year, a dozen turkeys were dropped and two died on impact, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
— Mitchell McCoy (@MitchellMcCoy) October 8, 2016
In theory, wild turkeys can fly, which defenders of the tradition are quick point out. And in fairness to them, 4 of the 6 birds “dropped” last year were able to float safely to the ground. But it’s the two dead birds who are raising questions.
Even if you assume they can fly, poultry science professor Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton told Arkansas Online: “Placing turkeys in an environment that is new to them is stressful. In the case of an airplane, the noise would also be a stress-producing fear reaction. Dropping them from 500 feet is a horrific act of abuse.”
As a proud meat eater, hunter and Arkansas native, I tend to agree. There’s just something cruel and unusually different from buying an open-range turkey who met a quick demise at the end of a butcher’s cleaver and tossing one out of an airplane. Feel free to lecture me about how I’m wrong though in the comments.