Bicycle police stop traffic to allow a camel, part of a nativity scene procession, to cross near the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 3, 2013. The group "Faith and Action" held their annual "Live Nativity on Capitol Hill" to exercise their first amendment rights. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jason Reed

’Tis the season for animal rights

(USA Today) At this time of year, we often see animals subjected to cruel holiday stunts or treated as living props in our confusing pageantry.

Domino's Japan recently announced it was canceling its ill-conceived plan to train reindeer to deliver pizza, following a PETA Asia campaign. And just this week, a man was charged with abusing a camel that was part of a hospital's live Nativity scene in Pikeville, Ky.

With online purchases at a record high, brick-and-mortar businesses are pulling out all the stops to draw customers. But while shoppers can choose whether to stand in long lines and battle the crowds, animals used in holiday promotions face a bleak Christmas season.

Santa belongs at the mall — but reindeer do not. They easily become stressed when hauled around and put on public display. They don't enjoy being petted, harnessed, or forced to "pull" sleighs.

These large, strong animals tend to be skittish and unpredictable, and research has shown that stress, exhaustion and poor nutrition can cause them to develop respiratory diseases, including pneumonia.


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Packed parking lots are no place for horses, either, yet many malls offer horse-drawn carriage rides in a misguided effort to add an old-fashioned flavor to the season. Being caught up in the middle of busy holiday traffic and exposed to startling noises such as car horns and charity bell-ringing can make horses anxious and afraid.

But the season for operators to earn money is short, so their horses get few rest breaks. They can end up overworked, exhausted, hungry and thirsty. Many suffer from leg pain after pounding hard asphalt all day long or slogging through slush and ice.

Horses and humans alike have been seriously hurt — and even killed — when the horses have spooked and bolted, or when collisions between cars and carriages have occurred. Fourteen people on a holiday carriage ride in Virginia several years ago were hospitalized after a car slammed into them, ejecting the driver and causing the horses to run for 100 yards before finally hitting a pole.

And doesn't forcing animals to participate in Nativity scenes and festive shows contradict everything that the season represents?

Over the years, camels, sheep and donkeys used as props in holiday displays have been attacked by dogs or targeted by cruel people. A West Virginia man was arrested after he was caught having sex with a sheep who was being used in a crèche. Frightened and confused, animals have sometimes escaped, only to be hit and killed in traffic.

Officials in Charleston, S.C., decided to discontinue using them in the city's tree-lighting ceremony after a giraffe became upset by a confetti cannon and crowds taking flash pictures.

Live Nativity displays that use animals aren't even historically accurate. In Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's biography of Jesus, he points out that contrary to popular belief, there were no oxen, camels, donkeys or other animals of any kind in the manger.

Children shouldn't be given the message that animals can be used as props, no matter how altruistic the intention. They can learn to appreciate other living beings by watching nature films, visiting reputable sanctuaries, and simply observing wildlife in parks, woods and lakes.

The magic of the holiday season will not be diminished for kids by ending the exploitation of animals, yet to the animals, it will make a world of difference.

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.

During this festive period, caring readers can extend the hand of compassion to all by refusing to patronize reindeer photo ops, carriage rides and "living" Nativity scenes.

(Ben Williamson is senior international media director with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

Comments

  1. ~Probably~ why Domino’s Japan are not training Sika deer to make the deliveries, but are using reindeer, a species of deer that have been domesticated by humans for ~thousands~ of years.

    Sorry, but your comment just seems like the equivalent of condemning the practice of horseback riding as being idiotic or uninformed, because don’t you know wild mustangs are dangerous!?

    Sure wild mustangs and Sika deer are dangerous, aggressive animals, BUT THOSE AREN’T ANIMALS RELEVANT TO THE DISCUSSION.

  2. “PETA Asia campaign”

    PETA is an organization that clearly has no merits, with animal shelters that have strikingly higher euthanasia rates then other shelters (shelters run not for the supposed purpose of animal welfare). They care more about publicity for their human members than about actual animals.

    “They don’t enjoy being petted, harnessed, or forced to ‘pull’ sleighs.”

    How far do you want to take this logic?? Do you want to force the Saami, Nenet, Khant, Evenk, Yukaghir, Chukchi, and Koryak peoples of the arctic circle to stop using the animal domestication they need to ~live~, or do you just have a problem with non-Arctic peoples using reindeer??

    “Fourteen people on a holiday carriage ride in Virginia several years ago were hospitalized after a car slammed into them, ejecting the driver and causing the horses to run for 100 yards before finally hitting a pole.”

    Seems to be a gap in your logic, considering the horses weren’t the problem, people getting hit by a car was the problem.

    “Over the years, camels, sheep and donkeys used as props in holiday displays have been attacked by dogs or targeted by cruel people. A West Virginia man was arrested after he was caught having sex with a sheep who was being used in a crèche.”

    Ban animal husbandry!! Because Bestiality!! Yeah, that’s some logic you got there…

    “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.”

    What is the alternative you propose?? Because if we stop animal domestication, all the current domesticated animals would be seen, at best, as pests, and probably wiped out, sort of like how the bison was on track for being wiped out until animal domestication and farming saved the ~entire species~.

    And certain animals, like, as just one example, sheep, can no longer survive without domestication. Google “Shrek the sheep” to find out what happens to sheep without domestication. The life of an unshorn sheep outside of human captivity is hell.

    “During this festive period, caring readers can extend the hand of compassion to all by refusing to patronize reindeer photo ops, carriage rides and ‘living’ Nativity scenes.”

    Thereby ~HARMING~ domesticated species by causing their owners to be less able to afford them, and causing them to be slaughtered or sold for parts. Huzzah!! (You really need to think things through more. Somehow convince people not to patronize these services?? Congrats, you’ve just consigned many reindeer to be scrapped for meat, and those horses no longer “forced” to do what horses have been doing for thousands of years are now on their way to the glue factory!! What a great person you are, that you can morally posture at the expense of so much animal suffering!!)

  3. Eddie, I think the problem is more about the locations they’re putting these critters in. As one who grew up on a farm with a variety of livestock I can tell you that the only ones highly likely to survive being turned loose to fend for themselves are cats and a few dog breeds.

    I agree with your point that people are the problem. Very few know anything about how to behave around animals and do lots of stupid, risky things.

    I’m an omnivore and have no problem with meat consumption but there is a big difference between animals on a farm and in a busy metro area. I think that’s a bad idea because animals really do get very stressed by all the noise and strange smells.

    I agree with the point that animals are better off kept out of busy crowded places.

  4. Nah, its just a shout out to Nara and the deer park at Todai-ji. A place which deserves a far better reputation as a tourist haunt than it gets.

    The deer in Nara are not wild, nor entirely domesticated. But they have a reputation of accosting people for food and making themselves a bit of a hazard to the locals.

  5. PETA should shut up and enjoy their Christmas turkey, like everyone else! Those turkeys are killed most humanely! That’s better than dying from osteo-arthritis!

  6. Yeah, there might be an interesting discussion to have on domesticated animals and cities, but the article goes further than that:

    “Children shouldn’t be given the message that animals can be used as props”

    “During this festive period, caring readers can extend the hand of compassion to all by refusing to patronize reindeer photo ops, carriage rides and ‘living’ Nativity scenes.”

    This is calling for the removal of ~all~ animals from urban ~and~ rural festivities alike. The only ~examples~ given are of animals in urban environments, but the overwhelming stance of the article is that this should “never be done ever”, not that it should “never be done in urban environments”. The reason that only urban environments are given as examples is probably because the only “shocking” events that the author can use to prove their case come from the urban environments.

  7. Animals have no rights. Only humans have rights. A pig is not a rat is not a boy.

    Merry Christmas!

  8. “That’s better than dying from osteo-arthritis!”

    That is because they are so badly inbred and selected for traits which make for great meat production but poor living. If they lived that long it was because there was something wrong with them. A domesticated turkey’s life is pathetic from birth to Butterball.

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