Americans may still be reeling from the results of this month’s presidential election, but many will gather nonetheless Thursday for Thanksgiving turkey at their family dinner tables. Two birds, however, are slated to avoid the national feasting: Tater and Tot, the four-month-old turkeys expected to be "pardoned" Wednesday by President Obama at the White House.
Both will head to the Animal and Poultry Sciences Department at Virginia Tech to be cared for after receiving the president’s reprieve.
Obama has pardoned two turkeys from the Thanksgiving table yearly since taking office. It’s a tradition dating back to 1947, when the National Turkey Federation first gave then-President Harry S Truman a turkey. But, according to the Washington Post, Truman didn’t pardon the turkey he received — in fact, one archivist speculated he probably ate it.
In the years to follow, the Federation continued to gift the president turkeys, and eventually the birds were sent to zoos or parks instead of being eaten, the Post reported. The actual practice of officially pardoning the turkey began in 1989 with George H. W. Bush, who vowed at the time that the bird that year "will not end up on anyone's dinner table… he’s granted a presidential pardon as of right now."
A gobbler has been spared being eaten every year since.
This year’s birds, in addition to sharing a long fryer-free future, share birthdays — or hatch dates — and daily meals of ground corn and soybean meal in pellets. Tater is an inch taller at 2 feet, 3 inches, and also outweighs Tot by under a pound.
Of course, the reasoning of "pardoning" a turkey that has not actually committed a crime has not been lost on the nation’s legal scholars.
But that hasn’t stopped the White House from continuing the tradition — or holding online polls to determine which of the pardoned turkeys will become the official National Thanksgiving Turkey.