The hidden threat of turkeys

Like many Canadians this weekend, I will be gorging on turkey and, shortly thereafter, falling into a food coma. This is the annual Thanksgiving tradition, and I give thanks for it (and for many other things, but that’s not the point of this blog).

The radical vegetarian faction of my friends give me grief around this time of year. Turkeys are living beings, beautiful in their creation, they say, and humans should respect that. And, apparently, the way we should respect that is by choosing Tofurky, the bird-free turkey. There is a certain truth to what my friends say; however, they are clearly oblivious to the dark side of turkeys.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, a U.K. organization which keeps track of the ways the locals manage to maim themselves, has tracked a “representative sample of hospital attendances” to conclude that in 2002 (the last year for which data was available) “chicken, swan, duck etc.” injuries numbered 86 (broken down into 68 “household” injuries and 18 “leisure” injuries, a reporting strategy which, frankly, just raises a lot of questions). From this, they estimate that nationally, over 1700 poor sods suffer these types of injuries every year (for perspective, “wild fish” only caused 14 injuries; “bunches of flowers/bouquets/posies” caused 39 injuries). From this, it should be clear that turkeys are not docile, benign creatures. They are a national threat.

Turkeys concentrate their mayhem around Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving, at least in the U.S., is the leading day for cooking fires, with three times as many as on an average day, according to the National Fire Protection Association. While most Americans are counting their blessings, firefighters are putting out nearly 4,300 blazes.

More recently, turkeys have used their allure to tempt unsuspecting home cooks to deep fry them. These turkeys are the suicide bombers of the feathered set, and the Department of Homeland Security has finally recognized this, last year releasing this ominous tweet  that linked to this terrifying video.

Turkeys have traditionally broadly targeted the middle class, but are getting increasingly media savvy and have attempted to take out high-profile Canadian targets as well. William Shatner recounts his near-death turkey experience in this video.

He’s not alone in courting turkey peril. According to the Turkey Farmers of Canada website, Canadian households consumed a total of 9.6 million whole turkeys in 2008.  At Thanksgiving alone, 2.7 million whole turkeys were purchased by Canadians. That’s 39% of all Canadian households. We consume 4.5 kg of turkey per person; in the U.S., that number jumps to 8.0 kg per capita (it’s the highest in Israel, at 10.5 kg per capita).

This insidious infiltration of turkeys has had an effect on the social and cultural fabric of Canada, as government social programs strain under the cost of rehabilitating brave Canadians who have fallen as a result of turkeys.

For instance, CanLii (search terms: turkey and Thanksgiving) returned 23 hits, almost all having to do with workplace and safety proceedings. Satisfying Canadians’ hunger for turkey causes injuries – lots of them: elbow epicondylitis, cubital tunnel syndrome, impingement syndrome, just to name a few of the most common. Decision No. 490/11, 2011 ONWSIAT 1546 (CanLII) recounts a giblet-stuffing injury that clogged the courts for seven years until appeals were exhausted and benefits restored.

The Thanksgiving turkey onslaught is hardest on the frontline troops – the increase in turkey purchases increases the weight an average worker handles: WCAT-2010-00366 (Re), 2010 CanLII 22364 (BC WCAT). It causes labour strife related to pre-Thanksgiving vacation blackouts: Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1400 v. Sobey’s West, 2010 CanLII 77808 (SK LA).

Even where turkeys are given by employers as gifts, the courts have held that turkeys received by a taxpayer from an employer must be included in income pursuant to the Income Tax Act: McGoldrick v. Canada, 2004 FCA 189 (CanLII).

Turkeys have even undone claims for damages. In B.C. Teachers’ Federation v. Thorne, 2010 BCSC 953 (CanLII), a schoolteacher had claimed disability benefits from her employer and when the benefits were cancelled, she launched a claim for general, aggravated, exemplary and punitive damages seeking $950,000, a claim that was ultimately dismissed. Why? At para. 290: “…Ms. Thorne was filmed choosing a frozen turkey at the grocery store – bending over the freezer chest, picking up a turkey, putting it in her cart, bending over again to inspect and remove it, choosing another….”.

My friends, turkeys pose a clear and present danger to the people of Canada (and elsewhere, though the Americans may have brought some of that on themselves with the whole deep frying thing…). This Thanksgiving, I exhort you to ignore your vegetarian friends and turn your back on PETA. Instead, fight your family members for that drumstick, ask for second helpings and crack that wishbone without guilt – rest easy (probably with the top button of your pants undone) that your consumption of the wily turkey is completely justified.

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About InfoLawyer

I'm an cybersecurity, data protection and privacy lawyer lawyer at the Toronto law firm of McCarthy Tetrault. When not writing here, I am writing restaurant reviews for Precedent legal magazine or using the backs of restaurant napkins to work out the odds of whether I can be replaced by an artificially intelligent machine (this week's odds are 70:30).
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