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Schoolgirl Athena's love of animals means pet turkey Lucky will not be carved for Christmas

By Amanda Ferguson

Published 04/12/2015

Athena Bryson from Poyntzpass with her early Christmas present, a turkey called Valerie Lucky
Athena Bryson from Poyntzpass with her early Christmas present, a turkey called Valerie Lucky
Athena Bryson from Poyntzpass with her early Christmas present, a turkey called Valerie Lucky
Athena Bryson from Poyntzpass with her early Christmas present, a turkey called Valerie Lucky
Athena with her mum Melissa

This may be the luckiest turkey in the world.

Named Valerie Lucky, she has been saved from slaughter by a little girl's Christmas wish.

Most children want toys, but top of six-year-old Athena Bryson's festive wishlist was a pet turkey, so her dairy farming parents Graham and Melissa set about making their daughter's dream come true.

"I wanted to save a life," Athena said.

The Scarva Primary School pupil, who is from Poyntzpass, told the Belfast Telegraph she had been a vegetarian since she was just five because she loves animals so much and does not want to eat them. Athena's brother Jensen (10) eats meat, as do Graham and Melissa, but they all respect her choice not to.

Melissa said: "She doesn't like dolls and toys. She just loves animals.

"Last year, she got lambs and bottle-fed them as they didn't have a mother, and she has an incubator for chicks too.

"She came to us this year and said for Christmas she wanted to save a turkey's life.

"We eventually found a country farmer in Ballynahinch but he was slaughtering his that day, so he sourced one from Newry."

The pet turkey shares its name with Melissa's friend Valerie, while Lucky was chosen for very obvious reasons.

Athena is thrilled Valerie will not be served up to someone this Christmas Day and will instead spend it and future years with her new family - happy not to be eaten.

"She is a lovely wee girl," Melissa said.

"She is so good with her animals."

Athena hopes to be a vet when she finishes her education.

She explained her motivation for getting a turkey as a pet was that she did not like eating animals.

"Valerie is very nice," Athena said. "She is six months old. I'm vegetarian and didn't want anyone to eat her. I love animals." Athena also cares for lambs, goats, hens, cats, guinea pigs, horses, rabbits, cows and two miniature Yorkshire terriers called Toto and Tootsy.

"The dogs are my favourite," she explained.

Valerie is fitting in well with the Bryson family and their other animals.

"Valerie is in her pen," Athena said. "Sometimes she escapes. She is allowed in the house. I like her eyes."

Athena said that while her family were tucking into their steak dinner on Christmas Day, she would be happily enjoying food raised from the soil.

"I will have potatoes and vegetables," the little girl told the Belfast Telegraph. "I like broccoli and carrots."

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