Bush sends pardoned turkeys to Disneyland

WASHINGTON - It was a dream come true for Marshmallow and Yam, two lucky turkeys from Henning, Minnesota.

President George W Bush spared them from being served for Thanksgiving dinner and, to top it off, sent the pair on an all-expenses-paid trip to Disneyland.

"I know that Marshmallow and Yam are going to feel pretty good strutting around sunny California remembering the cold days of Minnesota," said Bush, who was flanked at the annual turkey pardoning ceremony by Vice President Dick Cheney.

"The granting of the turkey pardon is not a responsibility that I take lightly," Bush added.

Bush said the turkeys were named after "a nationwide election" on the White House website. "In the end, the voters made the choice, and it was a close election. You might say it was neck and neck," Bush said.

Marshmallow was designated the national Thanksgiving turkey at the ceremony. Cheney was seen grinning in the background as the turkey's handler wrestled the feisty 16.8kg bird to the table.

The alternate national bird, Yam, was honoured in absentia.

"He's in a pickup truck hanging out by the South Lawn," Bush said.

Thanksgiving Day is November 24.

For the past 15 years, turkeys lucky enough to be pardoned by the president were sent to Frying Pan Park in Virginia.

But Marshmallow and Yam will instead travel to sunny southern California and retire in style at Disneyland in Anaheim. They will serve as honorary grand marshals at the park's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"Marshmallow and Yam were a little skeptical about going to a place called Frying Pan Park," Bush said. "I don't blame them."

Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, had petitioned Bush to stop sending the pardoned birds to Frying Pan Park, where the group said they died from neglect or harsh conditions.

- REUTERS