“Vote for me,” bellowed the turkey farmer through a megaphone. “I will stand up. For the rights. Of every. Turkey on this farm.” Eyes burning fiercely, stomach protruding unhealthily, Denys Brockburn, owner and main shareholder of Brockburn Meats Ltd. stood upon the podium, surrounded by close aides, supporters and donors. “Today I promise. Each and every one of you. You will not be slaughtered to fill orders. You will not be used to make my company more profitable for me and my shareholders. I make a solemn pledge. Today.”
From his vantage point atop the podium, adorned with ribbons, slogans and posters Brockburn could see across the whole Turkey farm. Millions of birds looked up at him, hoping that this year would be different. “Yes. Christmas is just a few short weeks away,” he continued, “And yes, this company used to make a big profit at this time of year. But those days are over. This year will be different. There are those of you who say you will be used. To fill the massive orders I have received from supermarkets. There are those of you. Who believe. They will be slaughtered. To fill those orders. I say to you. I will not. Let that happen.”
After the speech Brockburn, a third generation turkey farmer, took no questions from the feathered mass that had congregated to hear his promises. He had arrived in a gigantic blue bus, the slogan ONE MILLION TURKEYS WILL BE SAVED EVERY DAY, painted across the side in huge and unmissable white lettering. He departed on the bus, waving from the doorway, leaving behind him posters bearing slogans like NO MORE SLAUGHTER and TURKEYS WILL BE HAPPY THIS CHRISTMAS, plastered on barn walls and hung from banners. Even the hill opposite the farm had the grass cut and painted so that the words NO MORE TURKEYS FOR CHRISTMAS could be seen for miles away, as if to hammer home the point once and for all.
When the circus of the turkey farmer had departed the turkeys of the farm were visited by another making promises but this was not a third generation turkey farmer, it was a turkey. A turkey just like them but older, wiser. Thick rimmed spectacles perched on the end of his beak, he didn’t arrive in a gigantic bus awash with slogans and promises. He arrived in a neat modest-sized car with one or two close advisors. He didn’t stand on a podium and he didn’t shout promises through a megaphone. Instead, he walked around the farm, talking to the turkeys individually, communicating his message – “for the turkeys, not the monkeys” and listening to their concerns. How could he afford to take on the turkey farmer? What were his views on this farm claiming independence from the rest of the Brockburn Meats conglomerate, and what of the rumours that his supporters had echoed anti-Chicken sentiment on social media? He addressed each of the concerns and spoke in a quiet, calm tone that was quite at odds to bellicose bellowing of the previous visitor. When he left, there were no posters, no banners and no grass-ruining slogans burnt into the ground, just a few leaflets, and a solemn promise that he, as a fellow turkey, would be best placed to understand the rights and needs of his fellows. He told the birds, Brockburn would not keep his promises and his track record in successful turkey farming would bear this out. All they had to do was take a look at the promises he’d made in the past, his history of making absurd claims, and his refusal to answer questions and submit to scrutiny.
Two weeks later the turkeys voted in the election to decide who would represent the farm in future dealings with the board of shareholders. Denys Brockburn, turkey farmer extraordinaire won the election on a landslide. Two weeks later, a week before Christmas the farm was empty. Every turkey, say for a few, had been shipped off in huge wagons and slaughtered to fill the company’s Christmas orders. Some of the birds that were left vowed they would never be fooled by Brockburn again, that this time future generations would remember this gross breaking of his “solemn pledge”. But some birds, perhaps more cynical than the others knew, that despite this injustice, just five short years later, the turkeys would again vote for Christmas.
If you don’t follow UK politics, the thinly veiled analogy of this tale may be lost you. As somebody who follows international politics, I often find myself wondering “what were they thinking?” when people like Trump, Bolsonaro or Orban get elected. If I was an outsider looking in at the recent election of Johnson as Prime Minister I would likely be thinking the same thing. So, as UK poltics enters uncharted waters, I would like to go on record here and say I didn’t vote for him and I’m dismayed so many in the UK did.
Copyright Martin Gregory 2019