By Tom Woolman, poultry industry consultant
There are many traditions that stand the test of time, but I wonder whether the annual mudslinging at the turkey industry is starting to fall out of favour.
In December Peta released a typically provocative animated Christmas ad voiced by Lancashire actress Jane Horrocks, where a turkey wanders down a street singing about strange Christmas rituals. At the end of the advert she is grabbed, put in a van and hung on some shackles to await her grizzly fate.
Sometimes trawling through video comments online can be a very one-sided affair, but with Peta’s video it seems that this sort of glib emotional blackmail is turning a lot of people off. One comment reads ‘I think this will backfire on Peta’.
Peta got a similar response to a picture that they tweeted around the Thanksgiving holiday, showing a human carcase on a table, surrounded by a family of turkeys. The accompanying caption read ‘Turkeys would never do this to us – you don’t have to do it to them either’.
The post drew a wave of comments, some of them even citing peer reviewed evidence, that turkeys are omnivorous not vegan and almost certainly would eat a human given the chance. Anyone who has walked through a group of mature stags knows better than to lie down on the floor and expect not to get a jolly good pecking.
On 8 December Channel 4’s Dispatches programme aired, titled ‘How Safe Is Your Turkey?’ and showed undercover footage filmed at Bernard Matthews’ Holton plant. To the untrained eye it is easy to make assumptions about conditions in a factory, and showing selected edited footage to potentially naïve food hygiene ‘experts’ they managed to elicit some negative comments on how the factory was run.
The truth was in fact far from what the programme tried to portray. That’s not to say that there are some cultural ways of working that needed challenging at the plant but nothing which was presented was a genuine food safety risk to the public. Holton had already been subject to a stringent schedule of audits from customers and regulators. Even the Food Standards Agency swiftly publicly confirmed that no breaches in food safety had been uncovered by the documentary or its recent audits.
Happy new year to all and let’s hope for some more balanced reporting in 2024.