Have you ever
wondered why we eat turkeys on holidays? Who started the tradition? Why would we even domesticate
turkeys? This is the history of the domesticated turkey.
domesticated turkey is descendant from one of the six subspecies of wild turkey
that came from southern Mexico. The earliest archeological signs of
domestication, such as the construction of pens and large quantities of
eggshells, have appeared on Mayan sites that date back to 100 BC. By 300 AD,
the Aztecs and pueblo societies of the America southwest were domesticating
turkeys as well, using their meat and eggs for protein and their feathers for
decorative purposes. In fact, the Aztecs even associated the turkey with their God
Tezcatlipoca because of his humorous behavior.
The first turkeys
were imported to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. The English
navigator William Strickland is credited for introducing the first turkey to England
around the same time. Strickland even included a turkey on his family coat of
arms. However, the turkey still remained a luxury food until the late 19th
In early America,
wild turkeys were abundant and thus easy to catch for a feast. When the English
began to domesticate this poultry species, they quickly realized that the
animal had no other use then meat production. Other animals such as chickens or
cattle were raised for a dual purpose. Americans followed the growing British
tradition of eating turkey for holiday meals. However, while the British have always associated
turkey with Christmas dinner, Americans have grown accustomed to eating it for
Thanksgiving as well.
By the 1940s,
intensive farming production techniques had improved, which allowed turkey to
be more affordable. In addition, refrigeration technologies allowed turkeys to
be frozen and shipped long distances.
White turkey is the most common commercial breed due to its size and amount of
meat. The Broad-Breasted Bronze is second compared to the White. There are also
many heritage breeds, which are raised to retain historic characteristics and
natural behavior of wild turkeys. Although they have been praised as having a
richer taste than commercial turkeys, the meat from heritage turkeys is very
expensive due to their slow growth and low population. However, the recent
movement towards eating natural and organic food has increased the interest in
raising them domestically.
Whether you are
enjoying a Broad-Breasted White, a Broad-Breasted Bronze, or a heritage breed,
your holiday in America will be complete with a turkey.
post written by Lori Hutchison. Lori
is an Art History Professor and owns the Masters in History Schools website at www.mastersinhistory.net.
A report recently published
by a Canadian university has disclosed a sobering statistic regarding animal
testing. In an effort to bring a sense of transparency to the controversial
practice of using animals for research purposes, the University of British
Columbia (UBC) disclosed that more than 200,000 animals1 were used for
experimentation and testing in 2010. The disclosure is the first of its kind in
Canada, a country where federal law requires animal testing prior to conducting
human clinical trials for new therapies. Animal rights activists have been
alarmed by this number, but in context it is actually quite low, and indicative
of humane testing practices at UBC.4
Human society is largely
reliant on animals for a number of different things: food, companionship,
entertainment, transportation, and as beasts of burden. The heated debate that
surrounds the use of animals as test subjects for biomedical research has come
under more scrutiny than other uses, mostly due to a sketchy ethical history.
Early biomedical and even psychological studies on animals would have been
considered quite cruel by today's standards, and would never have passed
current regulations. Regulation in animal testing is a relatively new concept,
as is animal cruelty legislation in general, and should be viewed as a sign of
Today, the research
community is well aware that cruelty has no place in laboratories, and
consequently scientists and technicians practice the utmost care in their
research efforts in order to protect lab animals from unnecessary suffering.
Whenever possible the three Rs of animal research are observed: replacement
with non-animal testing methods wherever possible, reduction of the number of
animals necessary wherever possible, and refinement before the animal testing
stage to minimize the need for multiple experiments.
Government regulations in
many countries have legalized the use of animals for the purpose of testing
toxicity levels in products such as medications, vaccines, household cleaners,
pesticides, and others before human use. However, the use of animals in
cosmetic testing is more of a gray area, and regulation varies widely from
country to country. Many argue that animals should not be used for testing of
cosmetic and make-up products, which are not necessary to ensure the health of
human beings. The United Kingdom seems to be at the forefront in this regard, with
government initiatives such as the Animal Procedures Committee, and even there
animal testing is growing
more acceptable2, so long as anti-cruelty
measures are observed.
In the case of UBC, while
200,000 may look like a big number, the break down shows very little in the way
of cruelty or even discomfort. All of those animals were carefully reviewed to
make sure their treatment was humane, and 68 percent of them were classified as
receiving minor or no discomfort during the testing process. “Minor” discomfort
ranges from receiving a shot to small surgical procedures no more painful or
cruel than spaying or neutering. Mammals other than rodents make up less than
two percent of the total animals involved, with rodents and fish heading up the
list. Animals involved in invasive procedures were appropriately anesthetized,
and treated with the same level of care that humans receive while undergoing
surgery. Before any study can use animals in an experiment, they have to go
through several levels of review and approval, and all studies are subject to
annual reviews and spot-checks to ensure that all cruelty regulations are
obeyed. In short, animal research is not the haphazard institution that many
animal rights groups would have you believe, and UBC is hoping its transparency
will help rectify that misconception.
The fact is, there is no
replacement for animal testing when it comes to medical research. Even the most modern
advances3 in computer and cellular technology do not come close
to the complexity of living organisms. The University of British Columbia has
made it clear that their researchers are committed to affording the most humane
conditions possible for the animals they use in biomedical research. The
current trend among humans to live healthier and longer lives is evidence that
it is working, and will lead to better, more accurate animal testing in the
future. The humane treatment of animals in research labs must prevail in order
to guarantee the survival of our own species, and transparency is essential to
keeping it humane.
Guest post written by Brittany Lyons. Brittany aspires to be a psychology professor, but
decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate
the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she
spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.