MSN reported the following:
"The pastor at Anchorage First Free Methodist Church was mystified. Why was the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals chastising him? No animals are harmed in the church's holiday nativity display. In fact, animals aren't used at all.
People, however, do dress the parts — Mary, Joseph, the wise men, etc. The volunteers stand shivering at a manger on the church lawn in a silent tribute to Christmas. The Rev. Jason Armstrong was confused by an e-mail this week from PETA, which admonished him for subjecting animals "to cruel treatment and danger," by forcing them into roles in the church's annual manger scene. "We've never had live animals, so I just figured this was some spam thing," Armstrong said. "It's rough enough on us people standing out there in the cold. So we're definitely not using animals."
Jackie Vergerio, PETA's captive animals in entertainment specialist, said her organization tracks churches nationwide that use real animals in "living nativity scenes.""Those animals are subject to all sorts of terrible fates in some cases," Vergerio said. "Animals have been stolen and slaughtered, they've been raped, they've escaped from the nativity scenes and have been struck by cars and killed. Just really unfathomable things have happened to them."
In the letter to Armstrong, Vergerio shared some sad fates of previous nativity animals — like Brighty the donkey, snatched from a nativity scene in Virginia and beaten by three young men. Ernie the camel fled a creche in Maryland but was struck and killed by a car. Two sheep and a donkey had to be euthanized after a dog mauling at a manger scene in Virginia.
Confusion about 'living nativity'
Seems the confusion started with the church's choice of phrase. PETA flagged Free Methodist's display as a "living nativity," and indeed, that's how the church describes it on its Web site.
To PETA, that means animals.
Free Methodist's display is peaceful, Armstrong said. The congregation erects the stable. Members spread straw and don costumes. Some even dress as manger animals. The volunteers stand beneath a brightly lit electric star as Christmas music fills the frosty air. They don't even speak.
"No one's come by protesting or thrown bloodstained fur at us or anything," Armstrong said. "We even use a plastic baby."
Okay, so if you are going to have a "living Nativity Scene" at your church, either be careful how you advertise it or don't use live animals or be sure you are careful how you protect them and take care of them.
*********I had no idea PETA tracked these things as well as everythingelse it tracks about animal abuse. We are having a living Nativity Scene this year. I was asked if we were going to have live animals, and I said I honestly did not know. I enherited this practice, and they have been doing it for 2 years now.
At Aldersgate we had a Living Nativity that the children did on one Sunday evening. We didn't do it in Wadley, everybody was too old, although we had all the animals we needed. Okay so, what do you call it now? "Partial Living Nativity"? Do you use a disclaimer; no live animals or real baby used? M-m-m? How does one deal with this. "Life size creche', only actors used."