PETA's Christian Outreach Division Prays for Compassionate Nativity Display
For Immediate Release:
December 2, 2020
Megan Wiltsie 202-483-7382
Sun Prairie, Wis. – With Advent in full swing, LAMBS—PETA’s Christian outreach division—has sent a letter to the Rev. Jenny Arneson, pastor of the Sun Prairie United Methodist Church, urging her to let animals enjoy peace and goodwill at Christmastime by leaving them out of its upcoming drive-through Nativity.
“Using animals as living props is not a suitable way to spread the Christmas message of peace on Earth and goodwill to all members of creation,” says PETA Vice President Daniel Paden. “LAMBS is urging Sun Prairie United Methodist Church to spare these vulnerable souls stress, confusion, and potential injury by opting for a historically accurate, animal-free manger instead.”
LAMBS—which takes its name from Matthew 25:40 (“Whatever you did for the least among my brothers and sisters, you did for me”) and whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
LAMBS’ letter to Arneson follows.
December 2, 2020
The Reverend Jenny Arneson
Sun Prairie United Methodist Church
Dear Pastor Arneson:
I’m writing on behalf of LAMBS, the Christian outreach division of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide, including many thousands across Wisconsin, in response to Sun Prairie United Methodist Church’s plans to expose animals to the stress of a live Nativity display this Advent. We hope you will please reconsider for the following reasons.
Forcing stressed animals to appear in Nativity scenes and festive shows contradicts what this holy season represents: peace on Earth and goodwill to all members of creation. In Matthew 25:40—the verse that inspired LAMBS—Jesus says, “Whatever you did for the least among my brothers and sisters, you did for me.” Animals are truly “the least” among us and are in need of our compassion and mercy. What better time is there than Christmas to show kindness to all God’s creatures?
Animals used in public displays, such as live Nativity scenes, are often stressed from transport and from being in a strange environment. They are denied what’s natural and important to them. All animals experience joy, fear, sadness, pain, and grief and have complex social and emotional lives—but most animals who are exploited for these displays are sentenced to a life of deprivation. They’re hauled from venue to venue inside cramped trailers in all weather conditions. When they aren’t on the road, they may be chained or confined to small holding pens, without ever being able to experience true kinship or select a lifelong mate.
In 2017, a cow escaped from a live Nativity in Philadelphia twice in one night. She walked on icy roads and through a parking garage. Luckily, she didn’t sustain any injuries, but she could easily have been hit by a car or otherwise harmed. In 2016, a live Nativity in Pikeville, Kentucky, was canceled after the shocking video of an animal handler punching a camel surfaced online. The man was trying to make the camel lie down through the use of force—including hitting her in the face.
Ironically, live Nativity displays that use animals aren’t even historically accurate. Contrary to popular belief, there were no oxen, camels, donkeys, or other animals of any kind in the manger.
Many other churches have canceled plans for a live Nativity this year because of precautions to keep people safe from COVID-19. We hope that in the future, they’ll extend the same consideration to animals’ health and well-being that they’ve extended to humans this year. I hope you’ll agree that the abuse I’ve described here contradicts the careful stewardship and loving dominion of God’s creatures that we ought to exemplify. Sun Prairie United Methodist Church has the opportunity to set a meaningful example by not using live animals. May I please hear back that you’ve made the compassionate, Christian decision in this matter? Thank you for your consideration. May you, your family, and your flock have a blessed Advent and Christmas.
Yours in Christ,