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Gov. Cooper's annual turkey pardoning canceled due to avian flu concerns

Gov. Roy Cooper, center, pardoned turkeys named "Biscuit" and "Tater" at the governor's mansion in November 2022.
Office of Gov. Roy Cooper
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Gov. Roy Cooper, center, pardoned turkeys named "Biscuit" and "Tater" at the governor's mansion in November 2022.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's annual turkey pardoning event has been canceled due to avian flu concerns.

Since 2018, Cooper has pardoned a pair of North Carolina turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving each year. It's similar to an event held at the White House. Last year's event also included the donation of 300 turkeys from the poultry company Butterball to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

It's also a chance for Cooper to make some Thanksgiving-themed dad jokes.

“Last year set a high bar for how many Thanksgiving-related dad jokes I could make, and many folks told me I couldn’t possibly top it," he said at the 2019 ceremony. "To that I say, ‘I cran and I berry well will.'”

A spokesman for Cooper says the N.C. Poultry Federation was concerned about moving turkeys between farms and the governor's mansion.

"We love the turkey pardon and celebrating Thanksgiving, but this year the N.C. Poultry Federation relayed concerns about transferring turkeys given the safety protocols farms currently have to prevent spread of the avian flu," Cooper spokesman Jordan Monaghan told WUNC. "We appreciate the contributions these businesses make to our economy and families across the country and hope to bring this event back in the future."

Instead of pardoning turkeys, Cooper is packing Thanksgiving meals on Wednesday afternoon at the nonprofit Equal Plates Foundation in Asheville. Monaghan said Cooper "encourages North Carolinians to find opportunities in their communities to give back during this holiday season."

Cooper also stopped Wednesday at a Stokes County fire department to thank firefighters for their efforts to battle a wildfire there this week.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.
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