A Festival of Cruelty

The phantom pilot who’s tossed live turkeys from his airplane for 15 years now over the annual Turkey Trot Festival at Yellville, Ark., is a phantom no more. Now that he’s been succeeded by a different pilot flying a different aircraft, he’s proudly revealed his identity. He turns out to be Dana Woods, pharmacist and alderman from Mountain View.

“My plane is on the ground,” Alderman Woods texted during the festival, playing the hero of this sad story rather than the villain he is. Naturally enough, he’s offered a lame excuse for his (mis)behavior, mainly that his critics care more for birds than they do for people. He claims all these “bird-loving” types who’ve spoken up for the poor turkeys had nothing to say when a 4-year-old child was killed in the vicinity last November. His is an old and unconvincing rhetorical ploy that ought to fool no one.

Meanwhile, the law in those parts has turned a blind eye to this annual rite of fall. Even though, according to Arkansas Code 5-62-103, cruelty to animals is a misdemeanor that comes with a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine not to exceed $1,000. And a repeat offender becomes a felon eligible for psychiatric evaluation. If what’s been going on in Yellville isn’t cruelty to animals, it’s certainly not kindness.

Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton, a professor of poultry science at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, has a saner attitude toward these goings-on. She’s described the turkey drop as a “horrific act of abuse.” What we have here, besides a failure to empathize with a fellow creature,…