Each November, the sitting president bestows a pardon on a turkey or turkeys to a crowd at the White House, sparing it from the dinner table and the fate that befalls millions of turkeys during Thanksgiving celebrations.
This year, Mr Biden will pardon two turkeys, Liberty and Bell. Per PBS, the birds weigh in at about 42 pounds each and were raised in Willmar, Minnesota .
The turkeys arrived in Washington, DC, over the weekend and were put up at the Willard Hotel, where they were able to roam free around their plastic-sheet covered hotel room.
How did the tradition begin?
Turkeys have been sent as gifts to American Presidents from as early as the 1870s as part of annual thanksgiving traditions and the official turkey presentation to the president began in 1947.
The sparing of the turkey began during Ronald Reagan’s administration, with the president deciding to send the presentation bird to a petting zoo or farm rather than off for the chop.
However, the ceremony formally cemented itself under George H W Bush, as he officially pardoned the bird in response to animal rights activists picketing nearby.
Since then, it has become a time-honoured White House tradition for the president to offer clemency to a turkey, or two.
The path to pardoning
The lucky turkeys take convoluted and extravagant route to freedom, as explained by the White House in 2018.
The “presidential flock” of contenders “is prepared for potential stardom at the White House from an early age” and the birds are acclimated to crowds, lights and standing comfortably on a table.
The two prize poultry are now bestowed names and battle for the title of the official turkey title via an online poll before the winner is granted the coveted pardon.
Ahead of the ceremony the birds rest in the luxurious Willard Hotel. Last year’s birds, Corn and Cob, were pictured reclining in their fancy hotel room ahead of the final competition for freedom. This year’s birds also got to enjoy their hotel room, after being transported from Minnesota to the Willard via a black Cadillac Escalade, according to CBS News.
According to Steve Lykken, chairman of the National Turkey Federation and president of the Jennie-O Turkey Store, who spoke to the Associated Press, the turkeys were also prepared for the spotlight to be on them on Monday. “They listened to all kinds of music to get ready for the crowds and people along the way. I can confirm they are, in fact, Swifties, and they do enjoy some Prince,” Lykken joked. “I think they’re absolutely ready for prime time.”
What happens to the turkeys after they are pardoned?
After a heated vote, Corn was declared last year’s winner, but fortunately the second bird is also always spared from the chop as runner-up and first alternate, which is why both Liberty and Bell will be spared.
The White House says that, following the ceremony, the birds are retired for some “much-deserved rest and relaxation” and neither bird makes an appearance on the White House thanksgiving dining table.
Both birds from this year’s pardoning ceremony will retire to their home state, where they will spend the rest of their days at the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences.
Birds in previous years have been sent to a variety of locations including Virginia Tech’s Gobblers Rest exhibit in Blacksburg to a farm named Frying Pan Farm Park in Virginia.
Some birds during the Barack Obama and George W Bush administrations were even sent to Disneyland to greet crowds in the theme park and be paraded down Main Street.
Sadly, the spared turkeys do not tend to live very long after their pardoning. As the animals are farm-raised and bred to be eaten, they grow larger and faster than they would in the wild and do not have a long lifespan.