Obama Pardons National Thanksgiving Turkey

Obama Pardons National Thanksgiving Turkey

President Barack Obama has given his annual pardon to the national Thanksgiving turkey, Cobbler, as well as to an alternate bird - Gobbler.

The 19-week-old, 40-lb (18 kg) turkeys were named by elementary school children in their native Rockingham County, Virginia.

"They say life is full of second chances, and this November I couldn't agree more with that sentiment," a smiling Mr Obama said in one of several lighthearted references to his re-election on November 6 to a second presidential term.

Accompanied by daughters Sasha and Malia, Mr Obama waved his hand over Cobbler as he issued the official reprieve, then laughed as the bird gobbled loudly.

Mr Obama and Sasha petted the turkey. Malia did not.

Wednesday's pardon came despite a request from an animal rights group to skip the tradition.

The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says the annual event is "sorely outdated".

In a letter to the White House, Peta president Ingrid Newkirk wrote: "Turkeys do not need to be 'pardoned' - they are not guilty of anything other than being born into a world of prejudice.

"They are innocents who should be respected for who they are: good mothers, smart birds, and interesting animals."

The group suggested a vegetarian alternative for the Obama family's Thanksgiving meal.

"This year, we encourage you to forgo this event, which so many Americans find offensive, and choose a delicious, healthy Tofurky roast for your family's holiday table," Ms Newkirk added.

The annual White House ceremony began with President John F Kennedy in 1963 and takes place in the Rose Garden.

This year, for the first time, the American public had a say in which of two birds will be the national Thanksgiving turkey by voting on the White House Facebook page.

Obama said the American people have spoken "and these birds are moving forward" - a reference to his campaign slogan, "Forward."

The decision was between Cobbler and Gobbler , who were born on the same day.