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Scotch Plains. New Jersey. Nativity Scene. Live Animal Display.

I am cross-posting a message from the Animal Protection League of New Jersey (APLNJ) regarding a nativity scene in Scotch Plains, NJ that uses live animals 24 hours a day---even during the snowstorm we had last week. The misinterpretation of Jesus' birth as it is stated in the bible ( Matthew and Luke ) coupled with a disregard for animal welfare makes this display more of a naivete display than a nativity display. From Luke, the most we can know is that Mary placed Jesus in a manger after being told that there was no room in the inn. There is no account of animals living in the room or stall where the manger was located. The location of the manger is also in dispute. Two early accounts placed the manger in a cave outside town. Furthermore, Mary's placing the baby Jesus in the manger does not mean that the birth took place there. The gospels are not clear on these points.

We must ask, whose bright idea was it to use live animals and what is in it for the town of Scotch Plains? Is it that the town officials keep score and the live animals make their display better than the others? Bragging rights at the expense of animal welfare is despicable.

Since this live display has become a tradition, fifty years, it will take a strong will to stand up to a flawed tradition. Mayor Nancy Malool, Deputy Mayor Jeffrey Strauss, and Council members Domick Bratti, Mary DePaola, and Kevin Glover don't seem to have it. They would rather seek the safety and comfort that traditions provide than courageously confront the error and stop the abuse of animals. Evidently, they don't know their gospels either or else they wouldn't put any animals, ceramic or real, in a city-funded religious display. It's kinda scary to have people in elected positions of power and authority who can't get a biblical story right, isn't it? But they want to be seen in church as pious worshippers. Politicians who spend other people's money and tout themselves as judicious individuals should do better than this.



The town of Scotch Plains, NJ is, right now, once again holding a live nativity. The cruel spectacle, which has been held for 50 years, lasts for 10 days (generally from 12/19-12/29). The animals are outside, with minimal shelter, during this entire time. The temperatures have been between the teens and early thirties (the latter feeling 10 degrees cooler, according to weather reports). They were on display this past Saturday (12/19/09), when we had a bad snow storm, which dropped close to a foot of snow.

The lack of care for the animals (and the possible danger to the public), is detailed below. The Mayors (past and present) have refused to meet with concerned citizens since we first approached them during 12/07.


**** NOTE: Please send copies of your letters to me, Susan Gordon, at , so I have a record of the correspondence sent to the town. Thank you!

Mayor Nancy Malool (I include 3 separate e-mail addresses for her—use them all), Deputy Mayor Jeffrey Strauss, and CouncilMembers Dominick Bratti, Mary DePaola, and Kevin Glover

FAX: (908) 322-8678 ;;; ;;

SEE HER LETTER TO US, INSULTINGLY DISMISSING OUR CONCERNS, DIRECTLY BELOW THE CONTACTS. And, see below, the information that we had provided to the Mayor, prior to her letter, which disputes all of her claims.

* There is little hope that politicians so little-concerned about the animals or the public, will stop this year’s event, but let’s do all we can to convince them to replace, in the future, events that harm animals with humane events that truly celebrate the Christmas season.

* Feel free to make suggestions to them, on alternative holiday displays, whether animal neutral (such as a nativity without live animals) or ones that will actually benefit animals (such as collecting supplies and donations for local companion animal rescue groups or for the For the Animals Sanctuary.

* Ask them if they are prepared for the financial liability should a child be injured or made ill by the animals? Or if there is a car accident caused by the animals again escaping? Is this a risk that taxpayers will want the town to assume?

* Ask why they are so attached to a display that angers and saddens so many individuals and groups, during what should be a season of peace.

(2). The Scotch Plains Business and Professional Association

CONTACT them from:

Let them know that as long as events that use animals are held, you will not spend your shopping dollars in Scotch Plains. I spoke to one of their representatives, last year, and he was disinterested in seeing any of my documentation.

(3). Send letters to the editor, including, but not limited to, the below:

(a). The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times:
(b). The Star Ledger

From: Mayor Nancy Malool
Sent: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:53 PM
Subject: manger animals

I received your emails, but have not had the opportunity to set up a meeting as I have been consumed with issues that involve the welfare of our human residents. I am not unsympathetic to animals and would not be involved in anything that I believe to be abusive. The manger scene has been a tradition in Scotch Plains for more than 50 years. Cloverland Farm has been providing us with the animals for many of those years and I have spoken with the owner who assured me that we were providing adequate care. The animals are being cared for by both our Dept. of Public Works employees and our police. According to our DPW director, the manger animals were safe, warm and fed throughout the evening on Saturday during the snowstorm and an added tarp was put in place as a wind screen. The heater for the water was working on Sat. afternoon; I actually checked it myself.

We provide a standard of care that is at least equal to that provided at the farm. The owner of the animals would not continue to let us keep them if they were being treated well. If you still have an issue with how the animals are being treated, I urge you to contact their owners at Cloverland at If the owners agree that we need to change the way we are sheltering or feeding the animals, then I will be sure to institute the changes.

Thank you for your concern.
Nancy Malool
Mayor, Scotch Plains

For over 2 years, activists have tried, unsuccessfully, to meet with the Mayor, to no avail. Residents opposed to the live nativity, who have approached the town, have also met with no interest in their concerns.

First, we repeatedly approached then-Mayor Martin Marks (who ran for Assembly this past election and lost), who ignored our concerns. For the past year, we have repeatedly contacted current Mayor Nancy Malool (Mayor since 1/09), who barely paid lip service to our concerns.

We provided Mayor Malool with letters from (a). retired Reverend Frank Hoffman (stating that such cruelty is not in keeping with Jesus’ teachings) and (b). Debbie Kowalski, of the For the Animals Sanctuary (, who stated that the conditions for the animals do not meet what her sanctuary would consider even minimal standards.

In addition, we provided a press release from the Centers for Disease Control, educating the public to the dangers to children from contact with farmed animals at such public events.

We also advised her that: (a). the Vice Chancellor for Administration for the ArchDiocese of Newark (which covers Scotch Plains), Deacon Joseph A. Dwyer, Jr., stood behind our efforts to stop the live nativity, and that he was willing to either join us in meeting with the Mayor (his schedule permitting) or to provide a written statement, (b). I had been advised by a Scotch Plains teacher that many of the students at her school were upset by the obvious cruelty of the live nativity, (c). several Scotch Plains residents had contacted me, in opposition to the live nativity, (d). we had been told, by a Scotch Plains police officer that the animals had escaped twice, from their enclosure, in 2007, and could easily cause an accident on the busy, main street or the nearby very busy highway, and (e). the For the Animals Sanctuary had been willing to give sanctuary to the calf, which would have generated positive publicity for the town.

So, apparently the humans whom Mayor Malool was too busy looking after, to meet with us, do not include the school children and adult residents opposed to the display or religious leaders who find the spectacle at odds with the Christmas spirit. Or the Scotch Plains school crossing guard who tried various channels to make changes, and got nowhere.

The following are the conditions that we have observed, during 2007, 2008 and 2009.
All three years, the exploited animals consisted of a calf, 2 sheep, and 2 goats. They are surrounded by a locked, wooden picket fence, about 4 feet high, enclosing an area about 20 feet X 30 feet. The only shelter is the wooden manger (entirely open at the front, with a shallow roof and sides), which is barely big enough for all of the animals to sleep in, at the same time. Malicious individuals could easily throw dangerous materials into the enclosure or jump the fence and harm the animals. I found and removed a pacifier from the enclosure.

Even on the rare (if, at all) occasions that the animals are well-cared for, while at such events, live nativity scenes and petting zoos should be banned. The frightened animals, rented for such events, are generally trucked from locality to locality, during the heat of summer and the cold of winter, to be manhandled and gawked at, only to end their days in slaughter-houses.

Bringing hay to the animals, and monitoring their safety, gave us the opportunity to talk to members of the public who came to look at the animals, frequently with their young children. Without exception, everyone we spoke to came to look because they love animals, and were shocked and dismayed to learn the truth about these cruel displays.

2007: There was a thin layer of hay (wet from melting snow and rain) on the ground, but NO bedding, whatsoever. There was very little hay for the animals to eat (virtually none on 12/23, the first day we went). The small food trough was too small to hold a day’s food for even one animal. Parker Gardens, a local garden center, compassionately donated 6 bales of hay to us, for the animals. We were not aware of the live nativity until several days after it started. We went there every day, for the remaining days (including Christmas Eve and Christmas) to check on them and give them the donated hay.

I showed the photos of the animals to Debbie Kowalski, a nurse who runs For the Animals Sanctuary in Blairstown, NJ (, a sanctuary that has saved, and provides a permanent home to, cows, goats, pigs, and chickens. Ms. Kowalski said that the calf (estimated to be 2 months old—see his photo below) should have been with his mother. At the VERY least, he should have been in a barn. The sanctuary houses their now grown, rescued cows in a heated barn, but this baby, and the sheep and goats, were outside, 24/7, with no real shelter. Ms. Kowalski said that what Cloverland Farms (which supplies the animals to the town) was instructing, to Scotch Plains, as care for the animals, is totally insufficient for even minimal care. I shared her letter with Mayor Malool. As Mayor Malool’s letter indicates, she does not care what a sanctuary, as opposed to a business that uses animals, considers minimal care—and we were not urging minimal, or even maximum, care, but an end to animal-exploitative events.


As stated above, a Scotch Plains Police officer told us that the animals had escaped on 2 occasions and had to be rounded up, endangering the animals and local drivers. This live nativity is on a main street (Park Ave) and is ½ mile from VERY busy Rt. 22 (especially during this holiday shopping season).

2008: While Mayor Malool made a very minimal attempt to respond to our concerns (which Mayor Marks did not)—e-mails from the town attorney, attempting to assure us that the animals were cared for, she did not address the real issue: such events should not be held, at all.

2009: There was very minimal bedding available. The calf was lying on a small amount of bedding, barely the size of his body, out in the open, on the snow (in the fenced enclosure, outside of the manger). The other animals were huddled in the manger, on the only other bedding available. School children were shrieking at the frightened animals. As mentioned in the beginning of the alert, the animals were on display during a bad snow storm on 12/19. The witness felt the manger might not be big enough for the calf, who remained outside, lying on the snow, during her 2 visits, the weekend of the snow storm. One 12/19, she found the water frozen, and at 4 or 5:00, when it had started to snow, and was bitter cold, the tarp was not yet up. Another witness saw the tarp being removed the next day.


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