Metro/Handout/PETA A billboard located along the Patricia Bay Highway is part of a PETA campaign aimed at children.

A billboard on the Patricia Bay Highway on Vancouver Island is cooking up controversy this holiday season by drawing parallels between Christmas turkeys and family pets.

Part of a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaign aimed at children, the sign depicts a turkey with the head of a cat and reads: “Kids: If you wouldn’t eat your cat, why eat a turkey?”

“Our goal is just to spark a conversation about animals between kids and their parents, and inspire people to enjoy a delicious vegan Christmas dinner,” said PETA spokesperson Danielle Katz.

Although some may feel it’s inappropriate to target children, Katz says it’s only fair given how much fast food marketing is aimed at kids.

“Children face a constant bombardment from fast food and other outside influences promoting the cruel meat trade, but if they saw what happens to turkeys in factory farms they’d never want to be part of that industry,” she said.

A press release from PETA claimed “most turkeys slated to be killed for food are crammed in filthy warehouses, where disease, smothering and heart attacks are common.”

According to Katz, commercial turkeys are often bred so large that their legs buckle under their own weight.

Comparing pets to farm animals “is absolutely ridiculous,” said Michel Benoit, general manager of the B.C. Turkey Association, which represents the province’s registered turkey farmers.

“Pets are bred to be companion animals and farm animals are bred to feed populations,” he said.

Although he couldn’t speak about farming practices across North America, Benoit said PETA’s claims of mistreated turkeys do not apply to Canada. He claims his organization’s 64 members follow strict guidelines laid down by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.

Videos on the association’s website show how the birds are cared for at a large, Fraser River farm that hosts 60,000 turkeys at any given time.

“We produce a product that we’re proud of,” Benoit said.

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