For over 50 years, it’s been a tradition at the annual Yellville Turkey Trot festival in Arkansas for a plane flown by someone only known as the “Phantom Pilot” to fly about 1,000 feet over the crowd and drop live turkeys to the ground. Festival-goers then chase and catch the turkeys – the ones that survive and can still walk, that is.
Thanks to complaints from PETA and others appalled by this cruel stunt, festival sponsors stopped sanctioning the turkey drop. No live birds were tossed from planes at the Turkey Trot festivals from 2012 to 2014. People who didn’t want turkeys to suffer were glad this cruel tradition had finally come to an end.
Or had it? Once again, live turkeys were dropped from a plane at last year’s Turkey Trot, and again at this year’s festival, held earlier this month.
PETA members were on hand this year to save some of the injured birds.
“We rescued four turkeys — one who was trussed by his legs and tossed onto the concrete where he lay panting as spectators walked over him, and another found bleeding from her neck and legs,” Gemma Vaughan, a PETA animal-cruelty caseworker, told Arkansas Online.
Rosie Hilliard, a local activist, has filed a formal complaint with the Yellville sheriff’s office, alleging the pilot terrorized the birds and violated state animal cruelty laws.
And now, for the first time, the Associated Press reports that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the turkey drop to see if it broke any laws — but not in regard to animal cruelty, since it isn’t the agency’s jurisdiction.
— AR Democrat-Gazette (@ArkansasOnline) October 19, 2017
The reason the FAA has not been involved in the past is because the turkeys aren’t considered to be projectiles. Objects can legally be dropped from planes as long as they don’t injure people or damage property on the ground. “FAA regulations don’t specifically deal with dropping live animals out of airplanes, so we have no authority to prohibit the practice,” FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford told Arkansas Online.
However, he added, “This does not mean we endorse it.”
Like many locals who attend the Turkey Trot festival, Dana Woods, who was the Phantom Pilot for 15 years, sees nothing wrong with what he did. “All those ‘bird-loving’ people” have misplaced priorities, he told Arkansas Online. The turkeys can fly, he said. They can spread their wings and glide to the ground.
Last year, Woods dropped a dozen turkeys from his plane. Two were killed on impact.
It’s true that wild turkeys can fly, but it’s usually “from treetop to treetop, at an altitude of less than 100 feet,” ArkansasOnline reports. “Woods said last year that the turkeys were released at an altitude of 600 to 700 feet over the creek.”
That altitude alone would be enough to frighten the turkeys, Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton, a professor of poultry science at the University of Arkansas, told Arkansas Online. The expert said the turkey drop was a “horrific act of abuse.”
It’s time for the Phantom Pilot to stop making an appearance at the Yellville Turkey Trot to commit this horrific act. Please join more than 90,000 others who have signed and shared this petition telling Marion County Sheriff Clinton Evans to stop allowing turkeys to be thrown from a plane.
This article was first published by Care2.com on 24 Oct 2017.
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