Calves’ Escape From North Carolina Church Prompts Plea From PETA: Nix Live-Animal Nativities!

For Immediate Release:
December 8, 2022

Robin Goist 202-483-7382

Carolina Beach, N.C. – After two calves escaped from a live Nativity scene at Seaside Chapel and were rounded up 16 hours later from the Cape Fear River, PETA LAMBS (“Least Among MBrothers and Sisters” from Matthew 25:40), the organization’s Christian outreach division, sent a letter today to Seaside Chapel’s pastor, Jerry Vess, urging him to take a lesson from Pope Francis—who celebrates the holidays with an animal-free Nativity—and keep animals out of all church events.

The group points out that even without harrowing escapes, animals used in Nativity displays are denied every comfort and joy: Cows, camels, donkeys, lambs, and others face a constant barrage of activity and unwanted touches and are often tethered and made to stand on hard surfaces for hours. Their handlers commonly threaten and intimidate them—many use abusive tools to make them obey commands out of fear of physical punishment. Terrified animals have tried to flee and been hit by cars, and unpredictable, easily stressed camels especially pose a danger to the public. With virtually no opportunity for mental stimulation or proper exercise, animals used for displays may even develop abnormal and self-destructive behavior, such as pacing, swaying, or bar-biting.

“Live animals don’t belong in church Nativity scenes any more than they belong in the pews or the pulpit,” says PETA Foundation Faith Outreach and Engagement Campaign Coordinator Candice Kelsey. “The holiday represents peace on Earth and goodwill to all, and PETA is urging Seaside Chapel and every other place of worship to show animals kindness by leaving them out of their displays.”

PETA LAMBS notes that Pope Francis recently prayed before a newly revealed Nativity scene at the Vatican using sculpted animals. Historically, there were no camels, donkeys, or any other animals near the manger—and in addition to its beautiful sets and in-character church members, Seaside Chapel could feature faux-animal props and animatronics in place of exploited live animals.

Churches can also honor the holy season by urging practitioners to ditch meat, eggs, and dairy; hosting vegan potlucks; replacing leather furniture and prayer books with cow-friendly versions; using candles made without tallow, paraffin, or beeswax; and encouraging everyone to adopt from animal shelters instead of supporting the cruel pet trade.

PETA LAMBS opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. The group’s letter to Vass is available upon request. Its motto, a variation of PETA’s, is “Animals are not ours. They’re God’s.” For more information, please visit or follow PETA on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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Media Response Team.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind