Co Down charity shows its pluck by rescuing doomed turkeys
Animal lovers who aim to save turkeys from the plates of Christmas carnivores are refusing to let financial worries and other setbacks knock the stuffing out of them.
For the campaign to rescue as many birds as possible over the festive season has been stepped up by a Co Down charity.
And its volunteers have actually increased the number of animals they've kept alive by 50% compared to last year.
Twelve months ago the Nut House Battery Hen Rescue and Rehoming centre plucked 40 turkeys to safety.
But the charity's organiser Barbara Mladek says that number of poultry is paltry compared to the 61 birds which have so far been spared this Christmas.
It really is a feather in the charity's cap, according to Barbara, who has added 'Mama Hen' to her name by deed poll and who insists there is nothing underhand about the turkey rescues.
The charity buys turkeys from farmers who would otherwise kill them to sell to shops and stores.
The rescued birds are then given new homes - and more secure futures - in Barbara's rescue centre on the Nut House Road near Moira.
She says the fact that more turkeys are off the menu this year is like an early Christmas present.
The charity, which is sponsored by the Pets at Home shops, has used its own funds to purchase some of the turkeys, but it has also received donations from the public wanting to sponsor a bird, at an average cost of £10 a month.
"It's amazing that even when money is tight people are still able to find that little bit extra to save turkeys," added Barbara
And she has revealed that the idea for saving turkeys was given free range with the help of social media last year.
But it wasn't just vegetarians like Barbara who rallied behind the threatened animals.
A message on Facebook urged families who were purchasing a Christmas turkey for the Yuletide table to do so from a farm and buy a second one to give - alive - to the rescue charity.
Barbara was planning to scale back on the rescues this year because some of the 2016 birds had not survived due to genetic problems.
"That hit me really hard. It was awful watching them go downhill and realising there was nothing that we could do," said Barbara.
"Recently it became apparent that farmers would have surplus turkeys that they wouldn't be able to sell to shops and I wanted to save them."
Barbara says her determination to keep going with her charity work was increased by the large number of animal cruelty cases.
Her rescue centre is now providing a safe environment for more and more animals, with Barbara's premises now home to nearly 300 poultry including the turkeys, hens and ducks.