Turkeys Pardoned at Palisades Fundraiser Party for DawnWatch

By Sue Pascoe

Assemblyman Richard Bloom came to Pacific Palisades on November 4 for a fundraising party to officially pardon two turkeys: Ellie and Tracey. The turkeys are named for Tracey Stewart, who with her husband Jon is founding a farm sanctuary, and singer Ellie Goulding.

Bloom (D-Santa Monica) sponsored the legislative bill that led SeaWorld to voluntarily announce it was ending orca breeding.

Saturday’s event continues a tradition started in 2008 by Palisadian Karen Dawn, following her “run in” with a turkey.

“I was at an animal sanctuary when this turkey hobbled over to me,” Dawn said, recalling that the ends of the toes of the bird had been cut off. “She climbed into my lap and fell asleep. I realized then that they are crazy, cuddly animals.”

Karen Dawn with Monty and Marsha (two turkeys who received pardons) and Paula (now deceased), who lived for 17 years on mostly a vegan diet. Photo courtesy of Karen Dawn

With help from neighbor Bruce Greenwood, Dawn built a coop before Thanksgiving and rescued two turkeys, which were named Bruce and Emily (after friend Emily Deschanel). Bruce soon became Brucilla after he/she laid an egg. The turkey pardon was widely covered, not only by the local newspaper, but by the Los Angeles Times and ABC.

“I was only going to do it once,” Dawn said, but then realized the publicity helped promote her advocacy, which is to get media coverage for animals and animal-related news.

“I think that joyously, or sometimes sorrowfully, sharing information is different from preaching animal rights and telling people what to do or eat.”

Born in Georgia, Dawn spent her first seven years in Los Angeles. Her mother then moved to Australia, where Dawn grew up and attended college before moving to New York City. She met a partner there and came to the Palisades in 1999.

At about that same time, Dawn read Australian philosopher Peter Singer’s “Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals.” The result was DawnWatch and her choice to go vegan.

She said, “I had been mostly veggie-ish on and off from college. It was a long slow process, that’s why DawnWatch never tells people what they should eat. We are in the business of encouraging the media to cover animal issues so that people can make informed choices for themselves.”

When she first started her animal advocacy, which meant encouraging animal- friendly media coverage, Dawn would scan newspapers and magazines for any stories that related to animals. Then she’d let like-minded people know about the stories. They in turn would write letters to the editors.

“It was affirmative action,” Dawn said, noting that this was just about the time that media was shifting to the Internet.

She has written opinion pieces for the Washington Post, the LA Times, New York’s Newsday and the UK Guardian. She contributed to “Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals,” a 2004 anthology edited by Steve Best and Anthony Nocella, and to “In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave.”

Her first book, “Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals,” was published in 2008 and was named to the Washington Post’s Best Books list that year. In 2014 an updated e-edition of the book was released.

This year’s Turkey Pardon Party was different because raised funds for the Dawn Watch Media Awards to be held next May.

Dawn explained the Genesis Awards, which are awarded annually by the Humane Society of the United States to individuals in the major news and entertainment media that raise public awareness of animal issues, are now announced online and don’t feature a live event.

“The awards show was great because nominees learned from the clips of other nominees and everyone left charged up to do more stories,” Dawn said, noting that after the demise of the show, a person said, “Somebody should do something.”

Dawn agreed and decided to reinstate the show. “I realized I was the ‘somebody,’” she told the News.

At the “turkey-pardon fundraiser,” in addition to Bloom, there were several local actors, such as Star Trek’s Denise Crosby, Bruce Greenwood (who plays Robert McNamara in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming movie “The Post”) and Alexandra Paul from “Baywatch.”

Dawn said, “I want to make it clear that this is not an event just for fellow vegans, but for anybody who cares about the plight of animals.”

“If everyone who comes is a vegan, I have not done my job,” Dawn said. 

For more information on DawnWatch, visit https://www.dawnwatch.com

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