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Iowa turkeys to be pardoned virtually due to bird flu

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Governor Turkey Pardon

Gov. Kim Reynolds shares a moment with granddaughter Ainsley Springer and Benjamin, one of a pair of tom turkeys Reynolds pardoned at an annual ceremony at Terrace Hill, the governor's residence in Des Moines on Nov. 26, 2019.  

DES MOINES — An annual tradition is heading online as state and agriculture officials exercise caution with the threat of bird flu looming.

Gov. Kim Reynolds will pardon two turkeys via video Tuesday morning, the governor’s office said Monday.

The annual tradition typically is conducted at the governor’s mansion on Terrace Hill in Des Moines. But avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, has been infecting flocks throughout the Midwest, including in Iowa, since March.

President Biden , Takes Part in , Annual Turkey Pardon. President Biden , Takes Part in , Annual Turkey Pardon. 'The Independent' reports that United States President Joe Biden recently took part in one of the country's more bizarre presidential traditions: the annual turkey pardon. 'The Independent' reports that United States President Joe Biden recently took part in one of the country's more bizarre presidential traditions: the annual turkey pardon. Ahead of Thanksgiving every year, the president pardons a turkey, sparing it from the fate that millions of turkeys face in annual celebrations. Ahead of Thanksgiving every year, the president pardons a turkey, sparing it from the fate that millions of turkeys face in annual celebrations. This year, Biden pardoned two turkeys, Chocolate and Chip. CNN originally reported that the two birds were raised by National Turkey Foundation (NTF) chairman Ronnie Parker. CNN originally reported that the two birds were raised by National Turkey Foundation (NTF) chairman Ronnie Parker. Earlier in the weekend, the turkeys arrived in Washington D.C. where they spent the night in at the Willard Hotel. Earlier in the weekend, the turkeys arrived in Washington D.C. where they spent the night in at the Willard Hotel. According to 'The Independent,' American presidents have received turkeys as Thanksgiving gift since the 1870s, while the official tradition began in 1947. Ronald Reagan was the first president to spare the turkey, choosing to send it to a petting zoo or farm rather than eat it. Ronald Reagan was the first president to spare the turkey, choosing to send it to a petting zoo or farm rather than eat it. However, the annual pardon tradition was formally accepted under George HW Bush, who pardoned the turkey in response to protesting animal rights activists. However, the annual pardon tradition was formally accepted under George HW Bush, who pardoned the turkey in response to protesting animal rights activists. 'The Independent' reports that this year's pardoned birds will be retired to a new home on Iowa State University's campus. The turkeys will reportedly spend the rest of their lives in comfort, provided with clean bedding, heat, food and water in an indoor pavilion. The turkeys will reportedly spend the rest of their lives in comfort, provided with clean bedding, heat, food and water in an indoor pavilion

With that specter looming, officials determined it was unsafe to transport turkeys this week.

Instead, Reynolds will record a video message that will be published Tuesday morning on the governor’s social media accounts, a spokesman said.

“Iowa’s turkey pardoning event is something the governor looks forward to every year, but with a statewide order currently in place to protect flocks from the threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza, the turkeys won’t be transported to Terrace Hill,” Reynolds spokesman Alex Murphy said via email.

The state agriculture department on Nov. 10, for the second time this year, issued an order canceling all live bird exhibitions and other gatherings of birds. The previous order was issued March 23 and lifted June 3.

The most recent confirmation of a new case of bird flu came Oct. 31 in a commercial flock in Wright County. It was the 21st confirmed case this year.

The 2022 bird flu has not been nearly as destructive as 2015, when more than 31 million birds died or were euthanized, causing $1.2 billion in economic damage, according to one report.

Reynolds also Tuesday will participate in the annual tree-lighting ceremony at the Iowa Capitol.

Reynolds is not expected to field questions at the tree-lighting event, her spokesman said. Reynolds has not held a formal gathering with statehouse reporters since July. Earlier this month, she was elected to another four-year term.

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