Guest post by Zipporah Weisberg
There’s just something about Tiny Tom. He shines forth so brightly. When I met him, he still looked threadbare, with many feathers missing. Yet, he held himself with such gentle dignity. This combination of total vulnerability, disarming sweetness, and inner strength cut me to the quick. I simply had to get to know this magnificent little creature. Instinctively, I reached out my hand to touch him.
I was a little afraid: afraid of hurting him, for he was so very fragile. But also afraid of his ‘strangeness,’ not at all in these sense of ‘weirdness,’ but in the sense of ‘otherness.’ How different he was from other animals in my life. I had only met one other turkey before, several years ago at Farm Sanctuary in Watkin’s Glen, NY. What I beheld before me that day, was a completely unique being whose sensitivities, sensibilities, desires, proclivities, tendencies, aspirations and longings I had yet to discover.
Is it OK to touch his comb? Will he like it? Will it bother him? With guidance from some of the lovely human animal residents of VINE, and from Tiny Tom himself, I fumbled my way through our first exchange. To my delight, Tiny Tom responded with curiosity and affection when I stroked his soft, velvety head. And his comb changed colour, like a mood ring, only immeasurably more magical and magnificent because it was part of him. When I first heard him chirp, my heart melted. Have you ever heard a turkey chirp? It is one of the most beautiful sounds on earth. Heartbreaking and uplifting all at once. The epitome of sweetness. Such a small, but powerful sound.
From that point on, I was smitten. I felt honoured when he approached me to watch me work and hang out for a while. And humbled. So humbled by this tiny creature who, despite all the suffering he had endured at the hands of humans, was and is open to connecting with and trusting them.
I was sad to leave Tom, but I have since been regularly updated about his adventures and discoveries. When I feel overcome with grief at the violence and cruelty to which our species subjects countless creatures as a matter of course, I think of Tom, in all his inner and outer resplendence, and the wonderful community of caring people at VINE, and I am filled with hope.
Tiny Tom is a formerly farmed turkey of a breed favored by purveyors of purportedly “humane” meat. Zipporah Weisberg is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Animal Ethics at Queen’s University in Ontario who also works with Queen’s Animal Defense.
After meeting Tiny Tom during a volunteer work day at VINE Sanctuary, Zipporah elected to sponsor him. Click here to learn how you can join the sanctuary community by sponsoring a turkey or other sanctuary resident.