When you settle in to watch the annual spectacular of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this year, your viewing experience will be missing something. No, it's not just the cast of Glee (banished due to the show's unusual popularity on the rival FOX Network); it will also include a PETA advertisement intended for just this audience. And for once, the famously edgy animal rights group is not showing too much skin (of the gorgeous or not-so-gorgeous variety) or brainlessly offending whole classes of society.
No. This time, NBC has decided, Americans can't handle the truth about turkeys. Specifically, the truth about how turkeys are raised and slaughtered so they can end up, neatly plastic-wrapped and hard as 15-pound flesh-colored rocks, in supermarkets everywhere.
And here's the thing: Nothing is more sacred, time-honored, respected than the idea of giving thanks on the third Thursday in November over an enormous roast bird, right? And even our cutesy, kid-targeted mythology surrounding the holiday's origins (much though it's been enhanced by those in the faux-nostalgia department) is highly focused on the killing of the bird. Said Pilgrim Edward Winslow that fateful day in 1621, "our Governor sent four men on fowling so that we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as... served the company almost a week..." Numerous drawings of the historic day feature muskets over the shoulders of the men.
We know the bird has to be killed to get to our table. Why, then, would NBC decide the facts detailed in the ad; which depicts a little girl "giving thanks" for such things as "turkey farms, where they pack them into dark, tiny sheds for their whole lives ... how they burn their feathers off while they're still alive ... and killed by people who think it's fun to stomp on their little turkey heads"?
I'm fairly certain, having watched a goodly bit of TV in my lifetime, that there is no "this commercial is unappetizing" standard. A little too much truth? Not according to the network.
NBC, says PETA, responded to the ad by asking the activist organization "to give more information about the cruelty behind turkey slaughter to back up the statements made in the ad." and so PETA sent along a 2003 New York Times article detailing the far more grisly details behind turkey lives. Having been faced with evidence, NBC said delicately, "this commercial does not meet NBC Universal standards."
So you won't see a little girl giving grace for the worst ramifications of the American Right to Cheap Meat (that's in the Bill of Rights, yes?), one which ends with a call for all of us to become vegan. And, in all likelihood, the ad wouldn't do much more than scandalize millions of little girls, who would head off to their families and insist on foregoing turkey. Right?
Not really in the holiday spirit, I suppose. I'd like to point out that not every turkey on American tables is treated this way; a good-but-tiny minority of birds are raised by small, caring producers with plenty of room to run around in the open air and slaughtered humanely, their feathers dispatched in the afterlife. Veganism isn't the only option (much though PETA might disagree). However, I doubt it was that distinction that had NBC telling PETA this holiday, thanks, but no thanks.
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