(TELEGRAPH) — Livening up a Christmas nativity scene with live animals had unforeseen consequences for a group of Italian monks when an animal liberation group stole two of their most prized charges – a pair of much-loved rabbits named Cip and Ciop.

Elaborate nativity scenes are a staple of the festive season in Italy, but the Franciscan monks in Grosseto, in Tuscany, decided to go one better by placing guinea pigs, hamsters, chickens and rabbits among the more traditional plaster cast statues of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus and the Three Wise Men, in the church adjoining their convent.

While the live animals, which were kept in wire cages, were appreciated by local children, they provoked outrage among the members of Animal Liberation Front.

Two members of the group mounted a raid on the nativity scene, pulling the rabbits out of their cage and bundling them into a sack.

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