Commentary: The war on Christmas animals
by Dan Murphy
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.
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.”
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.