Obama to pardon turkey with the most Facebook fans

Election Day has come and gone, but the American people have one more consequential decision to make: Which bird will be named the 2012 National Thanksgiving Turkey?

President Obama today carries on the White House tradition of pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey, as well as its "alternate." But for the first time, the White House is letting the public decide which turkey gets top billing.

The White House is encouraging people to go to its Facebook page to vote for their favorite turkey -- Cobbler or Gobbler -- by "liking" and then "sharing" their pick.

"Born on the same day on a farm in Rockingham Country, Virginia, Cobbler and Gobbler may look alike, but they're no birds of a feather," the White House wrote on its blog. "Cobbler craves cranberries, is known for his strut, and enjoys the musical stylings of Carly Simon. Gobbler, a patient but proud bird, loves to nibble on corn and enjoys any music with a fiddle."

The winner will be announced at the pardoning ceremony at 2 p.m. ET.

According to the White House's "definitive history" of turkey pardons, Americans have been sending the president holiday turkeys since the 1800's. In 1947, the White House started holding official turkey receiving ceremonies in the Rose Garden. The tradition of sparing the turkey's life may date as far back as the Lincoln administration, but not every bird was let off the hook -- both Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson ate the turkeys presented to them. When President Kennedy's 1963 turkey came with a sign around its neck that said, "Good Eatin', Mr. President," the president decided to let him live.

President George H.W. Bush was the first president to officially pardon a turkey. "Let me assure you, and this fine Tom Turkey, that he will not end up on anyone's dinner table - not this guy," Mr. Bush said in 1989. "He's granted a presidential pardon as of right now -- and allow him to live out his days on a children's farm not far from here."

Whether Cobbler or Gobbler "wins" today, both birds will be sent to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens to live out the rest of their days in a custom-made enclosure. The White House has sent the Thanksgiving turkeys to Mount Vernon since 2010, but just one of the four turkeys sent there -- "Liberty," who was pardoned by Mr. Obama in 2011 -- is still alive and "continues to thrive," Mount Vernon spokesperson Rebecca Aloisi told CBSNews.com. Liberty's companion, Peace, fell ill recently and was humanely euthanized, she said.

Judy Pederson of Frying Pan Park in Virginia -- a farm which until recently took in the "pardoned" turkeys -- told CBSNews.com that the turkeys typically die shortly after leaving the White House. "They're bred to taste good, not to live long," she said, explaining that the turkeys are usually too fat to survive more than a month or two after the Thanksgiving ceremony.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), meanwhile, sent a letter to the White House, asking the president to skip the "pardoning" ceremony. The event, PETA said in a release, "makes light of the slaughter of millions of birds and is essentially an endorsement of the environmentally destructive factory farming industry."