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Free bird: Thanksgiving turkey pardons

Presidential turkey pardon

Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP

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Pardon in the garden

Reporters flock around Pumpkin the turkey at the White House Rose Garden in this Nov. 26, 2008 photo, waiting for President George W. Bush to issue the bird an official pardon. The Thanksgiving ceremony became a U.S. tradition more than 20 years ago, when Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, pardoned the National Turkey Federation's annual gift instead of gobbling it up. The 2011 birds — Liberty and the alternate bird, Peace — followed tradition with a pardon from President Obama after a luxurious stay at Washington's W Hotel. (The 2013 pardon is scheduled to take place on Nov. 27.) As the following photos show, politicians and poultry share a much longer, often bizarre, history. (Text: Russell McLendon)