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Turkeys

Animals in Need

Very few Kiwis have been lucky enough to call a turkey their friend, but those who have will tell you about their big personalities, unique mannerisms and their need, just like other animals, for love and affection.

Unlike turkeys bred for meat, wild turkeys can fly, reportedly at speeds of up to 90  kilometres per hour. They can also run at speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour on land, and can even swim. The males make their famous ‘gobble-gobble’ sounds in an attempt to attract a female.

Sadly, these fascinating birds are hunted in the wild and intensively farmed for meat in New Zealand.

Turkey farming in New Zealand

Over 200,000 turkeys are farmed in New Zealand every year. Turkeys are raised in much the same way as chickens bred for meat, in that they are selectively bred to grow as quickly as possible in the shortest amount of time. Turkeys bred for meat generally reach slaughter weight between 12 to 26 weeks, a fraction of the five years they could live in the wild.
The intensive breeding of farmed turkeys means that they can no longer naturally reproduce, due to the unnatural size and weight of the males. In farmed turkeys reproduction requires artificial insemination.

Welfare concerns

Farmed turkeys suffer many of the same welfare issues as chickens bred for meat. Obesity from unnaturally fast weight gain can cause broken bones, painful hip joints and lameness.
Overcrowded conditions may trigger aggression among birds. Farmers try to combat this by trimming the beaks of turkeys without anaesthetic, which can cause excessive bleeding, infections and even death.
The overcrowded conditions also create perfect conditions for the spread of infections and disease, and in some farms, birds are routinely fed antibiotics. In 2011, 5,000 birds died as a result of a bacterial infection on one of Tegel’s turkey farms.

Turkey hunting

Turkeys were introduced to New Zealand in the 1860s. Wild turkeys are not protected in New Zealand and can be hunted all year round.
While turkey hunting isn’t popular among locals, tourists can take part in turkey hunting safaris, offered by hunting companies, in which turkeys may be shot with a gun or a bow and arrow.

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