The Christmas Gift that Keeps on Killing...

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The Christmas Gift that Keeps on Killing...

[Be sure to visit The Heifer Project...What's Wrong with Gifting Animals... for more information, and to find Gifting programs to assist people without harming animals.]

By  Ruth Eisenbud
December 2010

Clearly those who send animals abroad, as livestock, to be slaughtered, are not at peace, as they desire to benefit at the expense of others.

Christmas is a time of year for generosity and celebration. In keeping with the spirit of the season, Heifer International has found a unique way to pervert the meaning of kindness and joy by bartering animal lives for incursions into poor nations, while presenting a moral veneer of compassion.

You've undoubtedly seen the Heifer International catalogues, with pictures of healthy, seemingly well-cared for animals, each with a price tag, being hugged by a child from a developing nation. The truth behind the illusion is that these animals are cargo, to be shipped all over the world to the poor, only to be exploited and eaten as a means of promoting western (religious) values. This trafficking in animal life increases dramatically during the Christmas holiday season. The following is from the Heifer International website:

Gift of a Goat (US$120.00)

Share of a Goat (US$10.00)

Goats Are Great for Families

The gift of a dairy goat represents a lasting, meaningful way for you to help a little boy or girl on the other side of the world. Goats can thrive in extreme climates and on poor, dry land by eating grass and leaves. The gift of a dairy goat can supply a family with up to several quarts of nutritious milk a day - a ton of milk a year. Extra milk can be sold or used to make cheese, butter or yogurt. Families learn to use goat manure to fertilize gardens. Goats often have two or three kids a year making it easy for Heifer recipients to pass on the gift of a goat to another family in need. This great investment allows our partners to lift themselves out of poverty by starting small dairies that earn money for food, health care and education." Heifer International website
<http://www.mercycorps.org/sites/all/themes/mc/images/mk_2010/preview/71_inside.png> <http://www.mercycorps.org/sites/all/themes/mc/images/mk_2010/preview/back.png>

Despite the lovely image of a child hugging a goat, this goat is not a companion animal to be loved and cared for by a human guardian. Not stated in the idyllic description is the reality, that male goats do not provide milk, and therefore are valued only for their flesh. Once the female becomes too old to produce milk, she too is served up as dinner. These animals are being shipped around the globe to be exploited and ultimately killed for human benefit. This notion of man's dominion over the animals was first pronounced in the old testament in genesis:'

"Genesis 9:1-3 is the most significant Biblical text supporting the Christian tradition of eating meat: This famous verse states that "God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.' "

Heifer International is a faith based charity, founded by Dan West an aid worker (missionary) for the Church of the Brethren, dedicated to prosyletizing at the expense of animal lives. Though HI claims that it is now secular, soon after the animals arrive, they are followed by the missionaries.

Examples of animals sacrificed for human benefit abound in dominion based doctrine. Heifer International takes its cue from this model as it states:

"With gifts of livestock and training, we help families improve their nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways. We refer to the animals as "living loans" because in exchange for their livestock and training, families agree to give one of its animal's offspring to another family in need. It's called Passing on the Gift – a cornerstone of our mission that creates an ever-expanding network of hope and peace."

In keeping with the dominion model of animal compassion, Heifer International creates an 'ever-expanding network of hope and peace' based on violence, exploitation and slaughter.

The following observation notes the irony of spreading hope and peace with violence and cruelty, by an individual whose definition of compassion includes respect for human and animal life. Note the reference to the biblical example of the slaughter of a lamb for human celebration:

..Or was it the ethic that holds that what's good for humans is not necessarily transferrable to what's good for the rest of animals, sentient beings all? I ... watched a "religious" channel. The program presented concerned Jacob, favorite, and youngest, son of Joseph. Joseph was just returning for a profitable trip somewhere and Jacob wanted to celebrate his successful business venture with a familial feast. So, he said to his other 11 sons, all of them jealous of Joseph, "...come, let us have a feast in Joseph's 's honor. We will slaughter a lamb to celebrate this occasion!" I cannot but wonder what the ewe, who's baby was to be killed for this "party" might have thought of this proposal?
- Lorraine Stone

Some of the animals sacrificed to promote Heifer's missionary agenda include: "gifts of cattle, rabbits, sheep, honeybees, pigs, llamas, water buffalo, heifers, chicks, ducks, goats, geese, other regionally appropriate livestock.... As of 2006, these animals .. have been distributed in more than 125 countries around the globe. Heifer measures the worth of an animal's life with a dollar sign. Some of the 'items' from their catalogue: <http://www.mercycorps.org/sites/all/themes/mc/images/mk_2010/preview/71_front.jpg>

True Charity does not curry favor by supplying a gift in exchange for accepting the values of the donor, that is coercion. The claim that providing the poor with livestock empowers them and encourages sustainability is questionable. Providing an animal that will eventually be killed does not empower, it demeans. Nor does it encourage sustainability, as meat production is wasteful of resources that could be used to provide nutritious vegetarian staples to the poor and hungry. Hunger is a complex issue, sending animals abroad to be slaughtered is a primitive and cruel solution.

The Barefoot College of Rajistan India is based on sustainability, compassion and meaningful empowerment of the poor - not the sacrifice and slaughter of innocent animals. Women from many of the indigenous and religious groups throughout India are brought to the campus of the Barefoot College, where they are taught to build and design solar equipment. The curriculum is secular. There is no effort to change the religious or cultural beliefs of the students. When they return to their villages they have skills that encourage sustainability and a sense of self respect based on their knowledge. For many this is the first time their communities have had access to electricity and heat. This allows the community to move forward with the education of its children to break the cycle of poverty. It is not necessary to sacrifice animals to empower the poor. This is a cruel notion, bolstered up by the antiquated belief of dominion.

The Barefoot College takes its cue from the Jain religious concept of Ahimsa: non-violence towards and respect for the lives of both humans and animals which states that ALL lives are worthy of equal compassion:

For there is nothing inaccessible for death.
All beings are fond of life, hate pain, like pleasure,
shun destruction, like life, long to live.
To all life is dear.
- Jain Acharanga Sutra

and

Those whose minds are at peace and who are free from passions do not desire to live at the expense of others.
- Jain Acharanga Sutra

Clearly those who send animals abroad, as livestock, to be slaughtered, are not at peace, as they desire to benefit at the expense of others.