Commentary: The war on Christmas animals

by Dan Murphy

 Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator

Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator

An animal rights activist in northern Australia is vowing to protest a mega-church’s Christmas show. Why? Because the church offers young kids attending services with their families the chance to visit a popular little animal farm, according to a report from the Noosa News website.

A group calling itself the Vegan Warriors has threatened the Lifepointe Baptist Church, which is located in Queensland’s famed Sunshine Coast resort area, with protests and picketing unless its “live animal exhibit” is removed from the church’s Christmas Lights Spectacular, a show that annually attracts thousands of visitors.

Having spent some serious vacation time in the company of my Aussie in-laws on the Sunshine Coast, I recommend visiting in the “off-season” (June, July, and September), when temperatures remain in the 70s but the beaches are virtually empty. Let me help those unfamiliar with the location of the Lifepointe Baptist Church: It’s about 20 kilometers north of Mooloolaba and 10 kilomotors south and east of Diddillibah, right in the heart of Maroochydore.

Got it?

The Vegan Warriors email stated that the group would protest what is essentially a petting zoo, even if the mini-animal farm is operating within legal guidelines and has the endorsement of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which it does.

Phil Greenbury, the church’s senior pastor, told the media that was the first complaint against the church’s animal farm in the nine years it has been operating as part of the Lights Spectacular show.

“All care, consideration and concern is always taken for all our animals, and we outsource our farm to a company that specializes in small animal farms,” Greenbury said. He noted that Vivienne White, who runs Viv’s Farm Animals, runs the petting zoo and has more than 20 years’ experience in children’s farm displays.

“During the last Christmas show, there were no injuries, no deaths, no vets needed and no medication for any of the animals,” White said. “They were all very healthy. There is also a designated area so the animals can be rotated and rested from the [attention of] general public.”

One-woman ‘group’

A little background here.

The Vegan Warriors appears to be a one-woman show. Its website states that the group “was started by Jaylene Musgrave, who is passionate about animal rights and decided to start Vegan Warriors to use her skills as a publicist to stand up for the rights of our precious animals.”

On the site, she lists “supporters” of her (alleged) group, but it’s merely a list of self-proclaimed vegetarians, including rock singer Joan Jett, Paul McCartney and his ex-wife Heather Mills.

Doubtful if any of them are actual supporters of the Vegan Warriors.

And here’s the ironic part of Musgrave’s passion: She calls the late Steve Irwin “her hero and inspiration.” As most Americans know from his show “The Crocodile Hunter,” Irwin was deeply involved in wildlife protection and habitat preservation. What many people don’t know, however, is that he founded and his widow continues to operate one of the largest zoos in the country, the Australia Zoo. The zoo, which has giant murals of Irwin in his trademark khaki shorts plastered on virtually every available space, offers all the traditional exhibits and shows: An elephant feeding station, a water show featuring “trained” crocodiles and a Big Cat amphitheater where tigers and leopards climb trees, jump across a small creek and otherwise perform for an audience safely seated on bleachers located behind a giant glass wall.

But while Musgrave is busy lauding Irwin, an Australia Zoo tiger handler named Dave Styles was attacked by a six-year-old Bengal tiger during a Big Cat show last month in front of dozens of shocked families. He survived, but spent 10 days in intensive care, endured multiple surgeries and only emerged from a life-threatening coma two days ago.

Yet she wants to shut down a church’s little kids’ animal display.

Could the hypocrisy be layered on any thicker?

Musgrave said she wants to “dialogue” with Lifepointe Baptist Church in hopes that “they may acknowledge this cruelty inflicted on animals.”

Only one problem with her plan: She admitted to the newspaper that she’s never attended any of the Christmas shows.

“I never go to church,” she said.

If she decides to re-think her ridiculous campaign, maybe that might be a good place to start.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.

  • Jim Corcoran

    Peace is more elusive than we think. Author C. David Coates wrote an eye opening poem which, like a mirror, exposes us to truths we may not wish to see. Here is a slightly modified version of that poem.

    “Aren’t humans amazing? They kill wildlife – birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

    Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative – and fatal – health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

    So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

    Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

    Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and then plead for ‘Peace on Earth.'”

    The good news is that anyone can break this cycle of violence. I did and you can too. Each of us has the power to choose compassion. Please visit these websites to align your core values with life affirming choices: &

    • TLDR

    • A_citizen_patriot

      So I assume that you dont eat bread, since mice are attracted to flour, and they are killed to keep them away. Also you must not eat any corn products for the same reason. It would also be safe to assume that you have never taken any medication, since it most likey conducted trials on animals prior to human trials.

      • Jim Corcoran

        It’s all about intent. My intent is not to harm other animals. On the other hand, your intent is to kill.

        • A_citizen_patriot

          LOL I didnt realize that you knew what my intent was. The point I was making is that you quote this poem that you believe represent your interest. But yet you still buy products that are indirectly related to the death of animals.

  • Bea Elliott

    While I love to see the bonds between humans and nonhumans appreciated and nourished – I’d have to ask what is the intent of this “petting zoo”? Is it there to further disconnect kids from “food animals”? Does it put animals in a position of “usefulness” or subserviency? Are the animals permitted to display their natural habits and desires? Are the children educated that other animals even *have* desires? Most importantly that they have the desire and the right to exist for their own sake? In other words… I have to question what the messaging is. To further domination? Or to foster goodwill and kindness? Since Mr. Murphy is an animal ag supporter… One could only assume the sad former.

    Make peace – Go vegan.

    • Self-Inflicted Misery

      When I meet a happy vegan I will consider it. Vegetarians are cool though.

      • Bea Elliott

        Gosh… I know countless numbers of genuinely happy vegans… And I know lots and lots of really miserable omnivores. Do you always look to other’s emotional health to direct your own actions?

        Happiness comes when what you do is aligned with what you think. Most vegans strive to live a just and fair life… Most omnivores I know struggle to “not know” the reality and details about what/who they consume. Tell me… Is deliberately being imprisoned in the dark joyful?

        • passin_threw

          the people have coined the term “warriors”, that kinda makes ya wonder just how genuinely happy they are

          • Bea Elliott

            Seems sadder and emptier to muddle through life without fighting for the justice that one believes in… Being filled with honest purpose brings happiness. Or… one could live in a shallow void of mindlessness. Ignorance is bliss as they say…

  • HereHere

    I think there are far more effective things to do in terms of animal protection, but every action to protect animals has value. Not everybody can appreciate that animals have their own self-interests and emotions, but the science clearly demonstrates that they do, and a number of animals also make and use tools and others can recognize themselves in a reflection. They all have the potential to suffer, and by far, the vast majority of animals under human control do so.

    • A_citizen_patriot

      I would disagree that the vast majority of animals do. There are a lot of farmers out there that care about their animals.

      • Chris

        You forget that the majority of our food doesn’t come from small farmers, but huge corporations. Joe Bob the farmer may care much more about the welfare of his livestock because he himself owns and cares for them.

        However, on the big livestock operations, there isn’t individual ownership many times, and the workers(many being illegal immigrants), don’t have a direct relationship with the livestock. This is where the problems occur. Not on the small family owned operations.

        • A_citizen_patriot

          While i agree with most of what you said. Have you ever seen a statistic on how much food comes from small farms and from factory farms?

          • Chris

            I only have general statistics for the nation as a whole. However, I would ASSUME that out here, much more of our food comes from small farms. But I don’t have the stats to back that up. I am glad that we still have small farms around here. Much of the US cannot say the same.

            However, looking at the US as a whole, “factory farms raise 99.9 percent of chickens for meat, 97 percent of
            laying hens, 99 percent of turkeys, 95 percent of pigs, and 78 percent of cattle currently sold in the United States”

            I’ve seen these stats from a few different sites, but would really like to see the USDA numbers on it.

          • passin_threw

            95% of the nations farms are family owned farms

          • Chris

            Family-owned doesn’t mean small-scale operations. Part of this has to do with the Mega-companies “outsourcing” to these family farms.

            So, Farmer Bob owns the land, but Tyson owns the chickens.

            I can elaborate on this if it doesn’t make sense.

          • A_citizen_patriot

            All the numbers i found were from “animal rights” sites, and i question the validity of thoes numbers. I also wonder what types of farms they include in the “78 percent of cattle” I know people that have 600+ cattle that are allowed to free range. Is that type of farm included in the numbers? If so then then the whole argument against factory farms loses credibility.

          • Chris

            That’s the problem–what defines a factory farm? The numbers I got came from a Huffington Post article that said the %’s were from a USDA farm census.

            600+ seems like a lot, especially here, but the feedlots that market over 80% of cattle have between 1,000-32,000 head of cattle. And those numbers came directly from the USDA site, so are valid.

          • A_citizen_patriot

            Im am only questioning the farms included in the numbers. You can have a industrialized farm and still care about your animals.

  • passin_threw

    looks like another prime example of a crazy fanatic getting attention they don’t deserve

    • Chris

      I would agree. And it is the fanatics that seem to always get the most attention, no matter what side of the equation they are on.