Come tomorrow, Gobbler and Cobbler can rest easy knowing their necks aren’t on the line for Thanksgiving dinner. The two presidential birds were both pardoned minutes ago by President Obama at a ceremony outside the White House’s Rose Garden.
The birds were both headed to the George and Martha Washington Estate, regardless of today’s verdict, according to Politico. But the tale of the president and his turkey pardoning hasn’t always been as cut and dry according to First Read’s Domenico Montanaro:
Bill Clinton started the confusion 15 years ago when he declared that Harry Truman was the first president to pardon a turkey. But that’s not true. In fact, he was presented a turkey, but most believe he ate it.
The first to actually pardon a Thanksgiving turkey was John F. Kennedy in 1963. The first to formalize turkey pardoning as a tradition at the White House was George H.W. Bush in 1989.
Abraham Lincoln was the first to pardon a turkey. BUT it was a Christmas turkey. It was destined for the Christmas dinner table, but the tale goes that his son took a liking to the bird and Lincoln gave it a reprieve.
And an important note about these pardoned birds. They’re bred to be eaten, and they only live an average of two years after the leave the White House.
The fate of the birds was originally going to be determined by a Facebook poll sponsored by the White House. This comes after PETA’s open letter to the president to put an end to the turkey pardoning since it “makes light” of the annual tradition and suggest that the Obamas go for “Tofurky” instead. Regardless of how you plan to celebrate the annual tradition of friends and family–that Mental Floss reminds us may have been more about seafood the first time. But, as President Obama explained about today’s double pardon decision, “They say that life is all about second chances, and this November, I could not agree more.”