According to the most recent statistics from the British Turkey Information Service, an estimated 10 million turkeys will spend the holidays on someone’s dinner table, and slightly more than three quarters of families in the United Kingdom will serve the bird for their Christmas meal.
Meanwhile, the National Farmers Union is encouraging everyone to “back British farming” for Christmas, by buying local British turkeys from local British farms. “Buying directly from the farm ensures you're supporting British farmers’ high animal welfare standards, and choosing a bird that has been fed a natural diet, bred for its natural flavour and reared locally,” the organization says.
So the fact that the Greendale Farm Shop near Exeter, England suggested that its customers might want to choose their own Christmas turkeys wasn’t exactly out of the ordinary—and it definitely wasn’t an offer that one would expect to end in death threats (for the shop’s human employees, not the turkeys).
“Come and pick your own Christmas Turkey,” the shop wrote on Facebook. “We will put a name tag on it and you come and feed it and help look after it for the next 2 months. You won’t need to get involved in any of the difficult bits at the end and we will even bone and stuff it for you when you come and pick it up, in time for Christmas.”
The response to the post was overwhelmingly pro-turkey, and it quickly accumulated more than 2,000 comments. (“The only Turkey we should be picking are the ones to be rescued from this animal abusing hellhole so they can be placed at loving sanctuaries and cared for,” one typical sentiment reads). But the online abuse carried over into the physical world as well: When Greendale’s employees arrived at work on Monday morning, they were greeted with the words “MURDER” and “GO VEGAN” spray-painted on the shop’s front door. They also received a steady stream of angry phone calls, including one that allegedly threatened to “cut up” the shop’s butcher and sell him to customers.
“To be honest the original offer was a bit tongue-in-cheek," fifth-generation farmer and shop owner Mat Carter told Devon Live. "I didn't really expect people to bring their kids in after school every day and look after their own turkey. When I walked in this morning and we had the graffiti on the door I thought 'this is a disaster'”
Carter said that he originally considered taking the post down, but decided that no, the shop is part of a working farm, and raising animals for meat is what farms do. “I strongly stand by our whole position on this. Fundamentally we are fishermen and farmers and I think anybody who eats meat should know where it comes from,” he said. “I'm not going to remove the post or stop being a farmer because we've had a bit of opposition from vegan groups.”
Carter says that posting photos of the turkeys was “the whole point,” and that each bird is raised with care and respect. And, despite the best efforts of angry vegans to… do whatever they’re trying to do, the shop has had a “record-breaking” week, as the community has rallied behind Carter and his staff.
The Devon and Cornwall Police Department is currently investigating the vandalism to the shop, as well as the death threats that employees have received. “Criminal damage and making malicious calls is against the law and will not be tolerated,” PC Dave Pilling said. “Regardless of [the] individuals’ views, these actions are simply not acceptable and cannot be justified.”
Earlier this year, the family-run Marlow Butchers in Kent, England was vandalized and had to endure bomb threats, both allegedly courtesy of the staunchly vegan Animal Liberation Front. “They want to close us down and people are threatening to smash the windows or petrol bomb the store,” owner Wayne Marlow said. “We live in fear and we’re up worrying at night. They are terrorizing us.”
The Greendale Farm Shop is still doing what it does, offering holiday delicacies like Parma ham-wrapped monkfish and its own elevated take on the Turducken. And, at least for now, angry vegans are still doing what they do, and criticizing the shop for existing. “Absolutely disgusting,” a woman named Louise wrote under a photo of the Three Bird Roast. “Deserve all the threats you get!!!!”