When your favorite celebrity asks you to “adopt” a goat from Heifer international as a Christmas gift for your loved ones, you are bound to think.. how sweet, right? Think again.
Heifer International, MercyCorps, Oxfam and other nonprofits have programs that ship animals overseas to poor families in underdeveloped countries to use for meat and dairy products. This is a nearsighted attempt to solve a far more complex problem (world hunger) and poses several risks for the animals, the environment, and the people whom these programs purport to help.
Taking animals away from their mothers, shipping them thousands of miles to far off lands, and then subjugating them for dairy products and ultimately slaughtering them for food, flies in the face of my personal mission to lead by compassion. All animals raised for food are exploited in a variety of ways, whether they are on factory farms or used for personal sustenance. Cruel procedures such as dehorning and castration without painkillers, restrictive conditions, and extended suffering due to illness and injury are commonplace. If a family is struggling to provide for themselves, how can they ensure adequate conditions, nutrition and veterinary care for their animals? Providing another mouth to feed and care for seems to be the last thing one should be doing to fight world hunger.
Farm animals drink a lot of water and graze a lot of land — particularly cows, pigs and goats. These animals contribute to desertification, particularly when living in environments that are not natural for them, and environments at risk for desertification. Many of these recipient families already live in desert climates and have a hard enough time getting water and resources for themselves, much less their animals.
Residents in Asia and Africa, two of the continents targeted by Heifer and other organizations of its ilk, have the highest levels of lactose intolerance in the world — upwards of 90% of these populations are unable to properly digest milk. Sending dairy cows to areas with a mostly lactose intolerant population defeats the purpose of these organizations’ missions.
I find it particularly disturbing that many of these programs show images of happy children hugging and holding these creatures to lure people into making a sympathetic donation. These images fail to reflect the hard, cold reality that these animals are doomed for slaughter.
The following organizations are working to reduce human suffering through programs that are sustainable and animal friendly:
- Sustainable Harvest International
- Food for Life
- Trees for Life
- The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation
- Women’s Bean Project
- Farm Sanctuary