PETA has an unusual message this Thanksgiving for President Obama: Don’t bother “pardoning” a turkey.
The animal rights group expressed disgust about the annual turkey-pardoning ceremony at the White House, which winks at one of the president’s constitutionally granted powers by having him spare the life of a turkey that’s headed for the oven and a Thanksgiving platter. Saying the spectacle “makes light of the mass slaughter of some 46 million gentle, intelligent birds,” PETA invoked the president’s support for gay and women’s rights in calling for compassion for the creatures.
Though it’s widely believed that Harry Truman started the tradition, NBC News notes that it appears Abraham Lincoln unwittingly initiated it when he allowed his son to keep a Christmas turkey as a pet. John F. Kennedy was the first president to pardon a Thanksgiving gobbler publicly in 1963.