From the Associated Press:
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – 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.”
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.
“Those animals are subject to all sorts of terrible fates in some cases,” Jackie Vergerio, PETA’s captive animals in entertainment specialist, 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. “
Well, we can remember back in the day, when PETA got its start, protesting the pig races at the Montgomery County Fair in 1981. Back then, they were just a pack of laughable bowbs who somehow confused the event with something that actually mattered.
At the time, a quartet of unhappy and unhealthy-looking folks with homemade plaquards stood outside the fairgrounds, shouting that forcing Porky Pig to amble 25 feet for his dinner twice a night was “cruel”.
Eventually, of course, the fair organizers and the huckster maintaining the six “racing pigs” saw the light, and slaughtered the beasts forthwith.
Mmmmmm. Bacon! (insert gargling sound)
I share this news item and reminiscence, not to try to convince any reader that PETA people are insane (that is self-evident), but rather to point out an interesting historical process that we may observe in the “Rise of PETA”. From the most humble of beginnings – trying unsuccessfully to convince a bunch of country-folk that “pigs are people, too” – the organization has grown to national, even international, fame, with professional staff, technical capabilities that rival the CIA and NSA, celebrity spokespersons, and a budget in the millions.
You just have to be impressed, don’t you?
They are not unique in their success, however. There is recent precedent … L.Ron’s bunch, the Scientologists, has shown similar success taking a loonie idea (have you monitored yourself lately?) and by carefully following the cult manual Hubbard crafted back in the day, rising to national, even international prominence. They, too, have professional staff, technical capabilities that rival the CIA and NSA, celebrity spokespersons, and a budget in the millions.
Not bad for a self-help program developed by an alcoholic writer of second-rate (to be charitable) science fiction. Again, you just have to be impressed by their success.
Naturally, like any cultish, secretive group, both PETA and Scientology have made some pretty collossal blunders over the years. As above, PETA occasionally hares off after a tormented wild goose or abused red herring, while Scientology has been known to kidnap, brainwash, torment and emotionally mesmerize poor harmless, though ultimately embarassing, celebrities.
But you can’t dominate the planet without breaking a few egg-substitutes. You can’t prepare the population for ascention without using a few couch-jumping mummers along the way, can you?
To address my initial subject: which the better cult – PETA or Scientology? – I think I would have to say that, while the “Stranger in a Strange Land” wannabes of Scientology continue to remain a fascinating study in navel staring self-deception, I have to go with PETA, which wraps its lunacy in a robe of animal-product-free, faux leopard-print compassion and humanitarianism …
See, while Scientology, I deem, will ultimately fade like most fads among the LaLaLanders, PETA will, like grannies who donate their fortunes to their cats, probably always be with us. PETA’s got legs.
Well, leg-shaped meat-free tofu products, anyway.