United Poultry Concerns February 12, 2003

Tell President Bush to Treat Pardoned Turkeys Better

Please write polite letters to President Bush, calling upon him to clean up conditions at Frying Pan Park (See below for additional contacts.)

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20500
Fax: 202-456-2461

PETA Finds “Pardoned” Turkeys Living in Substandard Conditions

On February 1, PETA representatives visited Frying Pan Park, a substandard petting zoo in Fairfax County, Virginia, outside Washington DC, where the turkeys “pardoned” by the President of the United States each year are deposited to live out the rest of their lives. PETA found three turkeys – Katie, Zach, and one turkey still alive from 2001-- living in “a tiny barren shed” with “nothing to eat or peck at. They were listless and their plumage was disheveled and discolored. There was no straw or other bedding material or any way for the birds to keep warm. It was cold, and they were shivering.”

PETA also found chickens and pigs without food, water, or bedding to protect themselves from the cold Washington winter. There was nothing for any of these sensitive animals to do but stand around and shiver.

UPC Found Similar Conditions at Frying Pan Park in 1997

On September 24, 1997, UPC representatives Karen Davis and Olive Nash visited Frying Pan Park in response to visitors’ complaints. (See PoultryPress, Volume 8, No. 1 (Winter-Spring 1998 at We saw debeaked, huddled, poorly feathered chickens covered with lice and mites. (The two birds we removed were diagnosed by UPC's veterinarian Dr. Norman Walter with upper respiratory infections along with external parasite infestation.)

Regarding the two “pardoned” turkeys who were there at the time, UPC President Karen Davis wrote to the then Director of the Fairfax County Park Authority, James A. Heberlein, on October 1, 1997: “I visited the two male turkeys in a remote part of the park. I was told they are ‘White House’ turkeys. These birds appeared to be in severe arthritic, hip-joint-degeneration pain. They need medical attention and integration into the life of the park. They had no fresh vegetables. There were in an atmosphere of desertion. Their housing was dirty, their yard was mud, and they were clearly suffering.”

Frying Pan Park’s “Clean Up” in 1997

In response to UPC’s letter to Mr. Heberlein describing the substandard conditions and suggesting improvements, Mr. Heberlein wrote back on October 13, 1997: “The park manager will make some changes immediately and will consider implementing your recommendations as appropriate within the goals of this historic site and its educational program. We will provide you with a status report on the condition of our poultry program by December 15, 1997.”

On December 18, 1997, UPC received a letter from Fairfax County Park Authority Acting Director Paul Baldino, who wrote: “We have discontinued the de-beaking procedure, eliminated the parasites, and made a formal request to a local grocery store to provide the recommended vegetables and fruits. ‘White House’ Turkeys: The two 1996 turkeys ‘welcomed’ the two 1997 turkeys on November 26, 1997. We have increased our cleaning frequency, added more sawdust and bedding to the turkey house, and provided the fresh vegetables [you] suggested. Many of our visitors have commented favorably to [sic] these improvements and we appreciate your interest in bringing these deficiencies to our attention.”

On January 29, 1998, Fairfax County Park Authority Site Operations Manager Gene Biglin invited UPC President Karen Davis for a tour of Frying Pan Park to observe the improvements. All the birds had fresh greens, the chickens had tree limbs to perch on, and the housing was clean. The birds had fresh food and water bowls. Apparently things have deteriorated since then.

Note: Except for the “White House” turkeys, Frying Pan Park sells its animals to livestock auctions, local farmers, or any buyer, and gives eggs to schools for hatching projects, takes back surviving chicks, keeps some hens, sells the roosters, then gets rid of the hens, etc. Frying Pan Park is not a sanctuary. It’s designed as a “working farm” replica of pre-World War Two farming operations. Pigs are born on the premises and sold for slaughter.

Besides Writing to President Bush, What Else Can I Do?

Please write polite letters to Frying Pan Park and the Fairfax County Park Authority, calling upon them to improve conditions at Frying Pan Park. Birds should have clean fresh straw at all times in the winter. They should be given fresh leafy greens several times a week all year round. They should have fresh food and water at all times. Birds eat and drink before going to roost at night, and at sunrise, so it’s important that they have ample fresh food and water in the late afternoon and in the early morning as well as throughout the day. Droppings should be cleaned up every day and there should be no excretory ammonia odor in the poultry houses or yards. Birds should be periodically dusted for lice and mites.

Michael Kane, Director
Fairfax County Park Authority
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 927
Fairfax, VA 22035
Phone: 703-324-8728
Fax: 703-324-3989

If you are in the Washington Metropolitan Area, visit Frying Pan Park and observe the conditions. It’s free and open the public. Express any concerns that you have to:
Todd Brown, Park Manager
Frying Pan Park
2709 West Ox Road
Herndon, VA 20171
Phone: 703-437-9101
Fax: 703-437-1418

For a history of the White House Turkey Pardoning Ceremony, see Chapter 7 of More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality by Karen Davis, PhD. Order from UPC, PO Box 150, Machipongo, VA 23405. $23.50

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. For more information visit

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

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