The FAA Can't Stop People From Throwing Live Turkeys Out Of Planes

That means it can't curtail the annual "turkey drop" in Yellville, Arkansas.
An Arkansas event involving live turkeys being dropped from planes has long been criticized by animal lovers.
An Arkansas event involving live turkeys being dropped from planes has long been criticized by animal lovers.
Laurie and Charles via Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration has found no violations with an infamous Arkansas event that involves dropping live turkeys from a plane ― but that may be because no one ever thought they’d need a rule about that.

“FAA regulations do not specifically prohibit dropping live animals from aircraft, possibly because the authors of the regulation never anticipated that an explicit prohibition would be necessary,” an FAA spokesman told HuffPost in an email. “This does not mean we endorse the practice.”

The Associated Press and WREG reported last month that the FAA would be looking into possible laws or regulations broken during the annual Turkey Trot festival in Yellville, Arkansas. This year’s Turkey Trot took place on Oct. 14.

Though the fall festival includes many events, it’s best known for the “turkey drop,” in which live turkeys are dropped from a plane 500 feet in the air. Festivalgoers chase and catch the surviving turkeys. Last year, a dozen turkeys were dropped and two died on impact, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

This year, several turkeys were dropped and there were no apparent reports of turkey deaths.

Even if the turkeys survive, however, the noise of the plane and the drop itself would be terrifying, Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton, a poultry science professor, said last year.

The FAA spokesman explained to HuffPost that the agency has no power when it comes to animal welfare issues.

“Our regulations only cover ‘objects,’ and specify that they can be dropped from aircraft as long as they don’t pose a danger to people or property on the ground,” he said. “In this case, investigators determined that the pilot did not violate FAA safety regulations because the turkeys were dropped over a creek and a park, well away from crowds at the festival.”

He noted that local and state officials would be the ones to address any animal cruelty issues. Unfortunately for the turkeys, it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen anytime soon.

Marion County Sheriff Clinton Evans told the Democrat-Gazette this week that Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kenford Carter would not be pursuing any charges related to the turkey drop.

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