In a statement, Pikeville Medical Center in Kentucky announced that it has canceled its live-animal nativity display after a shocking video in which a man punches a camel surfaced online. The video, which shows an animal handler repeatedly trying to make a camel lie down through the use of force—including punching the animal in the face—can be seen on Facebook, where it has already racked up more than 130,000 views in just two days.
Tiffany Sparks, who uploaded the video and witnessed the alleged cruelty firsthand, said, “Those poor camels have been smacked, kicked, choked by being pulled to the ground everytime they try and stand up. My kids and I are absolutely heart broken seeing them treat the camels this way.”
The man seen in the Facebook video—reportedly identified as Joseph P. Price—was fired from his job at 5H Ranch, the company that supplied the animals for the hospital’s display. He was also reportedly cited with a misdemeanor count of second-degree cruelty to animals by local police.
Don’t support any event that uses live animals.
Live nativity scenes have no “holiday magic” for the animals involved. Bustling attractions, crowded with visitors, including excited children, are an entirely unsuitable environment for camels or any other animal. When animals are used as holiday “props,” they’re denied the opportunity to engage in natural behavior and—as this video has shown—can even be put at risk of abuse or injury.
Animals deserve love and compassion during the holidays (and all year long). If your church still uses live animals in nativity scenes, appeal to your congregation to take an ethical stand against the practice. Contact the owners of any local business using live animals and let them know that—unlike willing human employees and volunteers—animals used in displays can’t say when they’re too cold or need a break. Share this story with your friends, family, and social media followers. Let them know that there’s nothing joyous or warm about live-animal Christmas displays.