Is Radio City Music Hall’s ‘Living Nativity’ Coming to an End?

PETA's Christian Outreach Division Asks Christmas Spectacular to Nix Cruel and Historically Inaccurate Live-Animal Display

For Immediate Release:
November 1, 2017

Audrey Shircliff 202-483-7382

New York – As the holiday season approaches, LAMBS—PETA’s Christian outreach division—sent a letter to the executive chair of The Madison Square Garden Company urging him not to use live animals in the “Living Nativity” during this year’s Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. In return, LAMBS is offering a set of beautiful nativity animal statues to be used in the event instead.

In the letter, LAMBS—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that the exhibitor that provides the animals for the annual show has been cited for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act in 37 of its last 43 inspections, including for failing to maintain a complete program of veterinary care. LAMBS also notes that showcasing animals on a noisy, brightly lit stage is inherently stressful for them—and that Pope Benedict XVI’s biography of Jesus Christ points out that historically, there were no camels, donkeys, or any other animals near the manger.

“Using animals as living props is no way to honor the Christmas message of peace on Earth and goodwill to all members of creation,” says LAMBS Outreach Coordinator Melissa Mary Wilson. “LAMBS hopes to help the Christmas Spectacular join The Lion King and War Horse in bringing animal characters to life in a humane way.”

For more information, please visit

LAMBS’ letter to James Dolan, executive chair of The Madison Square Garden Company, follows.

“Whatever you did for the least among my brothers and sisters, you did for me.” — Matthew 25:40

November 1, 2017

James L. Dolan

Executive Chair

The Madison Square Garden Company

Dear Mr. Dolan,

I’m writing on behalf of LAMBS, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Christian outreach division, in advance of this year’s Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, to urge you not to use live animals in your nativity displays this year or in the future and to offer beautiful statues of nativity animals for use in your event instead.

Forcing animals to participate in nativity scenes and festive shows contradicts everything that the season represents: peace on Earth and goodwill to all members of creation. Indeed, in Matthew 25:40—the verse that inspired LAMBS—Jesus says, “[W]hatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” With so few legal protections, animals are truly “the least” among us—and in dire need of our compassion and mercy. And what better time is there than Christmas to show kindness to God’s creatures?

The Dawn Animal Agency, which provides the animals for Radio City Music Hall’s show, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for federal Animal Welfare Act violations in 37 of its 43 inspections since 2000, including for failing to maintain a complete veterinary program, failing to keep enclosures in good repair to protect animals from injury, and failing to provide animals with clean drinking water. In addition to showing exhibitors’ disregard for animal welfare, forcing them to perform amid the bright lights and booming sounds of stage shows as props in seasonal displays is stressful, confusing, and unnatural for them.

Ironically, live-nativity displays that use animals aren’t even historically accurate. Pope Benedict XVI, in his biography of Jesus Christ, points out that, contrary to popular belief, there were no oxen, camels, donkeys, or other animals of any kind in the manger.

There are far more entertaining, humane, and cost-effective alternatives to using animals for living nativities. Broadway box office smashes like The Lion King and War Horse have creatively featured animal characters while never forcing a single one to take the stage. The magic of the holiday season will not be diminished for audiences if the exploitation of animals ends, yet for animals, it would make all the difference in the world. At this time of year, goodwill takes center stage, and there are many ways to celebrate that don’t compromise animals’ well-being by forcing them to participate in confusing and stressful Christmas exhibits.

We hope you’ll extend the hand of compassion to all by refusing to feature nativity scenes with live animals in your performance this year and in the future. We’d be happy to send you a gift of beautiful statues to represent the animals who are currently used in your show. Thank you for your consideration, and we hope you have a blessed season.

Yours respectfully,

Melissa Mary Wilson

LAMBS Outreach Coordinator

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


Get PETA Updates

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

 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