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The Immeasurable Magic of Tiny Tom

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.

ttsidebarIs 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.

8 comments to The Immeasurable Magic of Tiny Tom

  • Dallas Rising
    Many years ago I did open investigations on some factory farms. Battery cage facilities and turkey sheds. They turkeys really stuck with me because they were not in cages and had the ability to flee or approach. I expected them to move away from a human form, and the vast majority did. But when a couple of them started to tentatively move toward me after I remained still for a while, it nearly broke my heart. There is something disarming about the way turkeys can be completely baffling as “other” one moment and then suddenly connect. That moment when we humans can get past the “othering” and simply receive them is magical indeed.

    Thanks for the beautiful story.

  • Charlotte
    What a beautiful story, so beautifully told. Thank you so much for your post.
  • Some people claim they can see the aura of other humans. I have never been able to see this radiation of colours that is said to reflect the thoughts and feelings of another human. I don’t think many people claim to see it. Yet, the fact that the concept even exists demonstrates how desperately we strive to express ourselves and to accurately read other humans. My guess is that this desperation comes from the fact that we are not really very astute at reading other humans. We often, for instance, have to look closely to see if someone is crying. We don’t automatically pick up on someone else’s sadness.

    Yet, right in front of our eyes is the magnificent change in colour of a turkey’s head and face, mapping his or her thoughts and feelings. How many people are privileged enough to spend time with a turkey to even see that? How many people are privileged enough to hear, as you say, the thrilling and chirping of a turkey that breaks and delights your heart at the same time? When people like you tell the world about these aspects of turkeys it challenges the lens through which they are more usually viewed.

    Thank you for writing your beautiful story of Tiny Tom. Your connection with him will now reach people far and wide and both celebrate the otherness that makes turkeys so special, but also help to melt the boundaries of otherness that we use to justify harming them.

  • Marcia Mueller
    The difference between this innocent and suffering bird and arrogant humanity is stark. We call ourselves the only creatures on earth who are “children of God,” yet behave as if it is a very dark and merciless God, indeed, that we believe in. Any God worth worshipping would include Tom and all his creatures in his circle of compassion and care. I can only rejoice at the people who break away from this harsh and evil tradition and look after the innocent animal victims.
  • Nancy
    Yes- they not only chirp they sing and it is a heavenly sound. I spent a day sharing my meal with them and basking in their sweetness and innocence. I felt honored they accepted me eventhough they had been so abused by my species.
    I am a-religious, but the thought came to me unbidden that nonhuman animals are Jesus- hoofed, gilled, feathered,scaled,furry Jesus- for they are the ones that die for our “sins.”
    I cried and cried and told them how so very sorry I was that so many had been murdered to give thanks. I vowed then that I would do everything in my power for the “thankskilling” to stop. I fell asleep with turkeys around me-comforting ME. They kept smelling my mouth and giving me little pecks on my lips. I like to think it is because they knew I am an herbivore like them and were giving approval.
  • Thank you for writing about Tom…he is indeed resplendent inside and out.
  • CQ
    Zipporah, the gentle dignity with which you told about your first meeting with Tiny Tom matches the same quality you describe in him. That you for not only connecting with him and sponsoring him, but also for making us readers feel extra close to him and his fellow toms (and hens) at VINE and wherever they may be.

    Every November, when I make my rounds to the stores and bank, etc., I carry a framed photo of two rescued turkeys at a sanctuary’s Thanksgiving feast, diving into a pumpkin pie topped with cranberries. When I show the picture to tellers, clerks, cashiers, baggers, etc., most of them utter a drawn-out “awwwwwwww.” Then they blush with the realization that they are among the culprits who rudely snatch the joy from these trilling, chirping, singing turkeys every time they sit down to a “thankskilling” dinner (thanks for that word, Nancy) and mindlessly partake of a tender-hearted turkey’s flesh.

    Anyway, I’m extra grateful after reading this tribute to Tiny Tom for the opportunity to sponsor five brave birds at VINE. Even though they’re not turkeys, they are their cousins and are equally deserving of our interest, our respect, our time, our “mite” (Luke 12:59), and our love.

    , who are innocent, good, and, to me, .

  • CQ
    Well, you can see I didn’t quite finish my thoughts in the comment above, did I? I was also going to write that these creatures are “innocent, good, and, to me, divine”! :-)

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