Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Don't celebrate Olympics by donating goats for gold medals  

February 10, 2010 Peter Hamilton, Georgia Straight op-ed online

Several international organizations have animal-donation programs that supply goats and other livestock to developing countries. These groups include Oxfam, Heifer International, FARM-Africa, and the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. Their ads show kids hugging the gift goats, but farming animals can be an inefficient, expensive, and environmentally destructive way of producing food. This can harm people, animals, and the environment.

Two Langley brothers have started a Goat for Gold campaign urging people to donate goats to Africans every time a Canadian wins a gold medal during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. They previously raised money for 1,073 goats through a similar scheme during the 2009 Canucks playoff run. This goat plan is a horrible way to celebrate the Games. Winning a gold medal should be a celebration of athletic life, not the destruction of animal life. It taints the Olympic ceremonies as animal sacrifices.

Burdens on the recipients include the hardship of supplying food and water to animals when the people themselves are in need. Veterinary care, if provided, is also a financial burden. Goats are subject to health problems including scours, scabies, anthrax, mastitis, pneumonia, infectious arthritis, and mad goat disease. Some diseases can be transmitted to humans.

Africa and Asia have the highest levels of lactose intolerance, with upwards of 90 percent being unable to properly digest milk. The last thing that a hungry child needs is goat milk. Other health issues from a western-based dairy and meat diet include heart and cancer risks.

In 2008, Lifeforce documented sick, injured, and dying animals at the Fraser Valley Auction. The animal cruelties in developing countries are even worse. In war-torn countries, the burning of property includes goats and other livestock. Ritual slaughter for marriages and other ceremonies continues. The Kenya Society for the Protection & Care of Animals has told Lifeforce that sheep and goats are slaughtered by having their throats cut. The animals are also handled roughly. Goats are often overcrowded during transportation. And while many goats are in corrals, “often they are confined in dark and dirty sheds”, according to the KSPCA.

There are still long ocean transports that are infamous for high mortality rates. For example, Heifer International is introducing Irish goats to Kenya.

The World Land Trust is a 20-year-old U.K. organization patronized by naturalist David Attenborough. In 2006, WLT said that more than 100,000 goats were given to Africans during 2005: “Now that the grave consequences of introducing large numbers of goats and other domestic animals into fragile, arid environments is well documented, WLT considers it grossly irresponsible.”

According to WLT CEO John Burton, “Claiming that goats are the only solution after cattle and sheep have died of starvation (as Oxfam and Farm Africa do), is an illogical and ill-thought out suggestion. Once a habitat is this seriously degraded goats will be the final straw. All regeneration ceases, leading to desertification. This is not an hypothesis, anyone can see for themselves if they visit the arid areas of Africa or Asia.”

For decimated ecosystems, planting fast-growing trees puts nitrogen back in the soil, serves as windbreaks, and provides food. Trees also hold water in the soil. Tree projects are essential for all life. We must send seeds, healthy food, water filtration systems, medicines, tools, school supplies, and other humane donations that truly help those in need. There are numerous organizations working to reduce human suffering through programs that are sustainable and animal-friendly.

The world’s largest vegan food-relief organization is Food for Life Global. There is also VegFam, which funds a variety of sustainable projects. Others are Sustainable Harvest International, the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, and the Women’s Bean Project.

The marketing of developed nations’ diet of meat and dairy contributes to global starvation and global warming. We must not conspire with these industries’ continuing expansion into developing countries. Lifeforce urges people to boycott animal-donation programs. You can help stop animal cruelty and promote healthier lifestyles.

Carmina G. Wed, 2010-02-10 20:03 I agree with Mr. Hamilton. These donate-an-animal schemes haven’t helped the world’s poor yet.  Care and concern for animals, the environment, and the human community doesn’t involve such exploitive and shameful tactics as donating goats for gold medals. 

Don’t Send A Cow: Animal Gifts Don’t Help The World’s Poor 

November 15, 2006 Animal Aid

With the Christmas season fast approaching, aid agencies are once again pressing the public to give money so that farmed animals can be donated to impoverished communities in the “developing” world.

Such schemes, Animal Aid argues, serve only to increase poverty because farming animals is a wasteful, environmentally destructive and expensive way of producing food. All farmed animals require proper nourishment, large quantities of water, shelter from extremes of weather and veterinary care. Such resources are in critically short supply in much of Africa.

While animal gift schemes attract plenty of media attention and provide an apparent “quick fix” to the problems of world poverty, they ultimately serve only the aid agencies concerned by increasing their public profile.

There are many ways in which such communities can be helped, says the national campaign group. These range from providing appropriate technology to supplying drought-resistant, sustainable crops. Last Christmas, Animal Aid took the lead role in raising £2,000 for a vegetarian orphanage in Kenya. The initiative was at the behest of British charity HIPPO (Help International Plant Protein Organisation) that does invaluable work on the ground in several African countries.

This year, Animal Aid is seeking support for another HIPPO initiative: a tree-planting project in the same rural community as the orphanage - located 10 miles from Nakuru, Kenya’s fourth largest town and the capital of the Rift Valley province. The aim is to plant 2,000 trees that will bear oranges, avocados, mango, pawpaw, kei apple and macadamia nut.

Animal Aid has produced - and posted on its website - a guide to the true cost of donating animals to world’s poorest peoples:

  • £11 sends six chickens to an impoverished area where they can heighten the disease risk and severely damage the immediate environment
  • £125 provides a pair of goats - animals known to cause desertification, thereby reducing the amount of farmland available to local people
  • £750 sends a cow, who will drink up to 90 litres of the villagers' water every single day

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

‘At Christmas time, people are desperate to make a gesture that will benefit the world’s most vulnerable communities, if only to make us feel better about the relative great wealth the majority of us in the “developed” world enjoy. But while donating animals might make the donor feel good, such gifts simply add to the burden of the impoverished recipients.

‘There are many worthwhile initiatives to help people in “developing” countries that do not involve the exploitation of animals. Animal Aid urges the public this year to boycott all donate-an-animal schemes and support projects that help people, animals and the environment.’

- HIPPO has helped to develop the sustainable, organic, production of non-GM crops, especially pulses, in Kenya, Malawi and Ethiopia, and has assisted a soya food processing plant in Uganda. It also supports a vegetarian outreach programme in Lagos, Nigeria; and sends high protein, vegetarian foods to orphanages in Romania, Croatia and Kenya, and also to the African Food Bank community project.

Livestock gift charities do not help poor nations, say global critics

January/February 2007 Animal People

LONDON--Sixty years after Heifer International founder Dan West pioneered the idea of soliciting donations to give livestock to poor families in disadvantaged parts of the world, criticism of the practice at last cracked major mainstream news media during the pre-Christmas 2006 peak giving season. 

At least three major British newspapers and news syndicates amplified critiques of livestock donation programs, quoting most extensively from a prepared statement distributed by Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler. 

"This year about a dozen agencies are using your money to punt goats, chickens, sheep, camels, donkeys, pigs and cows to the world's starving," Tyler warned donors. "Prices vary: £70 will get you a cow from Help The Aged. Send A Cow demands £750 per animal. Farm Friends wants £30 for a goat, whereas World Vision will settle for £91 for a whole herd. 

"Farming animals is an inefficient, expensive and environmentally destructive way of producing food," Tyler continued. "Sceptical readers might accuse me of dressing up a concern about animal welfare as a concern for the world's poor. There are major animal welfare issues involved in sending animals to, for instance, the Horn of Africa, where earlier this year up to 80% of the cattle perished in a drought. Many of the remainder were washed away in the floods that followed. But this is not about cows taking precedence over people. Reality is that animal gift schemes are, in the words of the World Land Trust, 'environmentally unsound and economically disastrous.'" 

"Oxfam, Christian Aid, Help the Aged, and others are wooing the ethical shopper with pictures of cute goats wearing Christmas hats and promises of helping the poor in developing countries," summarized Sean O'Neill of The Times of London, "but the World Land Trust and Animal Aid say that it is 'madness' to send goats, cows and chickens to areas where they will add to the problems of drought and desertification." 

Said World Land Trust director John Burton, "The goat campaign may be a pleasing gift and a short-term fix for milk and meat for a few individuals, but in the long term the quality of life for these people will slowly be reduced with devastating effect." 

Added Andrew Tyler, "All farmed animals require proper nourishment, large quantities of water, shelter from extremes, and veterinary care. Such resources are in critically short supply in much of Africa," the major recipient of help from the British livestock-donating charities. 

Wrote O'Neill, "Christian Aid said that its critics misunderstood its program. The purchase of a goat, the charity said, did not necessarily mean that a goat was bought. The money would go into a farming and livestock fund distributed by local project managers." 

Added Kevin McCandless of CNSNews.com, "In addition to providing the animals, which are usually bought locally, the charities say they provide the support needed to care for them, including fencing and free veterinary care. Send a Cow said it worked closely with local farmers in Africa, providing them with support and using their knowledge to deal with issues such as soil erosion. It said it does not provide cows to areas where they would compete with humans for water, and insisted on a zero-grazing policy. The donated animals are kept in spacious shelters and have fodder brought to them."
Few of the poorest parts of Africa and Asia can afford to raise animals that way.

Objection from India

Commented former Indian minister for social welfare and animal protection Maneka Gandhi, "Nothing irritates me more than charities abroad that collect money and purport to give it to women or children or for animals in Asia or Africa. Very little reaches the country or the cause for which it is meant. Most of it goes toward their own 'infrastructure,' which means rent, staff, travel and 'investigation,'" Mrs. Gandhi charged.

"If people have paid money for 5,000 animals, fewer than 200 will actually get there--I can bet on it. This is cynical exploitation of animals and poor people," Mrs. Gandhi alleged. "Basically [livestock gift schemes] are a fundraising mechanism. 

"These charities woo the ethical shopper with pictures of goats wearing Christmas hats and promises of helping the poor in developing countries [but] it is madness to send goats, cows and chickens to areas where they will add to the problems of drought and desertification," Mrs. Gandhi continued.  

"Each goat eats all the grass and shrubbery on two hectares of land a year. A goat destroys the fertility of land and [the value of] any milk or dung it may give is very little compared to the havoc it wreaks. "Within two years," Mrs. Gandhi asserted, "the people who get goats have an even poorer lifestyle. There are village quarrels about community grazing; children are taken out of school to graze the goats; water becomes even scarcer. Two goats can reduce the amount of farmland available to local people and result in villages becoming deserted, while a cow will drink up to 90 liters of water every single day."

Objection from Nepal

"I have been sending letters to Dutch agencies to stop this kind of program for yet another reason," commented Animal Nepal founder Lucia DeVries. "The animals are generally slaughtered in an inhumane manner," DeVries alleged. "In Nepal, for instance, there is only one slaughterhouse, in the capital (Katmandu). This means that virtually all livestock is killed with the often-not-too-sharp-knives" of rural butchers, "causing much suffering to the animal and possibly to the butcher. I've met quite a few people who lost fingers while trying to kill a goat," DeVries said. 

"Ultimately," said Tyler, "my objection is to the commercial forces that seek to persuade people of the poor world that their best nutritional interests are served by buying into modern, high-throughput farmed animal production processes. With that comes an addiction to high capital input systems, additional stresses on precious water supplies, environmental destruction, a loss of control over the means of production, bad health, a nightmare animal welfare scenario and more human poverty and malnourishment." 

Tyler urged donors to "boycott the donate-an-animal schemes and instead support projects that help people, animals, and the environment. Animal Aid," Tyler said, is "seeking support for a scheme to plant 2,000 trees in Kenya's Rift Valley. They will bear oranges, avocados, mangos, pawpaws, kei apples, and macadamia nuts. Such efforts won't erase the blight of poverty in Africa," Tyler said, "but neither will they add to it."

Protest to Oprah

Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition cofounders Steve and Helen Rayshick asked animal advocates to join them in complaining to television show host Oprah Winfrey about her "supporting and promoting Heifer International," the Rayshicks wrote. 

"The Heifer International training farm, called Overlook Farms, is near us in Rutland, Massachusetts," the Rayshicks said. "They raise lambs and other animals for slaughter. It is no different from any other animal farm. We consider the 'donation' of animals to other countries to be a thinly viewed attempt to spread dairy and meat consumption to new parts of the world," the Rayshicks continued. "Note that Heifer International first sent dairy cows to Japan, after World War II, instead of sending them healthy food that was a natural part of the Japanese diet." 

Japanese activist Lydia Tanabe affirmed to ANIMAL PEOPLE that the Heifer International work in Japan is widely viewed as the start of the modern Japanese factory-style dairy industry, which is seen as having elevated Japanese animal fat consumption, with detrimental influence on adult health. "Heifer International is bringing a cruel, unhealthy, environmentally destructive diet to cultures that are primarily vegetarian," the Rayshicks objected. "Plus, one of the cruelest aspects of animal agriculture is animal transport, a mainstay of this organization. We wonder how many of these poor animals just get eaten on the spot upon arrival.

Islamic charities

The activist criticisms of animal donation schemes came just as leading Islamic charities introduced similar programs that enable Muslims to "get the animal of their choice sacrificed online for festivities like Eid Al Adha," according to syndicated reports originating from the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan. The charities reportedly included the Alamgir Welfare Trust International, of Karachi; the Sahara for Life Trust formed by singer Abrarul Haq; and the U.S. charities Islamicity and Life for Relief & Development. 

Vegetarian organizations and some animal advocates have criticized livestock donations as often being inappropriate, ineffective in fighting poverty, and inhumane almost since Heifer International started in 1948, then called the Heifer Project. Some agricultural economists began pointing out flaws in the strategy during the 1970s, notably that many recipients of gift animals were unable to feed them to maturity, let alone able to feed and raise offspring. Environmentalists later added questions about the wisdom of introducing non-native livestock to often fragile habitats, where animals with larger or different appetites from the indigenous strains might overtax the vegetation or simply starve. 

- ANIMAL PEOPLE summarized the arguments against livestock donations in a May 2003 review of the Compassion In World Farming and Humane Education Trust video Saving Baby Ubuntu, headlined "A video that never mentions Heifer Project International shows why their premise is wrong.

January 19, 2013 Donating a goat helps no one — least of all the goat

NB: Rabbits, sadly, are also being exploited as a food source by producers and some misguided and uninformed charities. Unless, of course, it’s deliberate and more about power and influence over the poor. It’s time that we wake up and embrace a plant-based diet.

April 7, 2014 Reginans work with goat project; Carmina Gooch's letter

November 26, 2015 Christmas gift ideas: Why not give a goat? Gooch writes to CTV

10 Reasons To Say NO To Animal Gifting Hunger Relief Organizations http://awfw.org/no-animal-gifts/ 

Sentient Media   Sentience Institute   When animals are treated as commodities their welfare will always be compromised.