The Heifer Project
A Bad Approach to Solving World Hunger Problems

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The Heifer Project
Heifer Project International Information
[my comments in brackets]
by Evelyn Elkin Giefer, March 2000.

Heifer Project International

Called in Dec. 1999, the person I talked to did not know where US farms were or much about animal care and follow-up; I was told to call a customer service representative for answers to questions (she couldn’t give me the number because the computer was down!) Called back a few days later and got the number. Customer service representative told me that worming and vaccinations were provided by HPI to local recipients. Arrangements are made with local veterinarians to provide ongoing care. Did not know where US farms were located.

Called again in Jan. 2000. Talked to another customer service person. A farm is located in Perryville, Ark. Another in Mass. Did not know where others were. Told me that HPI hires local vets to follow up with care and that HPI has vets on staff that help. Did not know how long this follow-up lasted. Could not answer how second generation animals were cared for or followed up. I asked for a knowledgeable person to call me back.

Talked to another person on 1/11/2000. Strict regulations on good health of animals. Provide veterinary care, travel around and train owners to care for animals, give vaccines and wormers. I asked about shipping regulations. She said oh, yes, we have lots of them: animals must be a certain age and weight and have all their shots, only healthy animals are shipped [nothing about animal protection regulations for conditions for animals, space, water, food, etc.].

Water buffalo, camels, caravans to specific places. Used for work, carrying loads and plowing fields. I asked if they are ever slaughtered. She was not really sure if slaughtered, said goal is to live as long a life as possible.

Telephone conversation with Roger Ellis, veterinarian

HPI Board of Directors

HPI started in Puerto Rico, 1944

Today 22 species of animals are involved

110 countries, 35 US states have been involved over the 55-year history.

Currently active in 35-40 countries and 17 states. [Therefore, no follow-up in over half of the countries where projects were started!]

In most countries, there is no HPI employee!

1-5% of animals are raised in the US. Some are shipped from the US to foreign countries and some are shipped between foreign countries. e.g., Ireland supplies some cattle. Are flown in planes. Not sure how others are shipped whether in boats or planes, believes most are flown. [Some are no doubt shipped over land in trucks and trains] Vets go with animals (volunteers). Try to educate themselves, taking animals from temperate US to foreign countries is not optimal. Cross-breeding to improve hardiness. US-raised animals are purchased from breeding farms (not donated).

Have only two veterinarians employed by HPI in US. There is one in Uganda. Another he knows is the Project Coordinator in Asia. Some volunteers. Probably others trained in local countries, are not employed by HPI, but trained by HPI volunteers. 2-year agricultural course = vet tech type, called "vet", some don’t even know how to palpate. Frankly, in some countries, the "vet" is just a lay person, not formally trained. Mastitis strip course. [mastitis must be a problem, if they are training them to test for it; therefore, females are being over-milked; mastitis is associated with increase milk production]

Follow-up is done by local animal husbandry people, not really trained as veterinarians, often don’t have many drugs, use folk medicine, often works. Some drugs are donated by drug companies to HPI, some are purchased, some countries have better availability of drugs.

Zero grazing pens cost $200 per family. This is an intensive (small) pen aimed at facilitating manure collection. [This means that the animals are overcrowded and more susceptible to parasites.]

Animals are routinely slaughtered for food when their usefulness to humans is over (excess male goats and cattle, old animals whose milk production has dropped off, all rabbits, pigs, etc.). The whole town participates, often including the children. Dr. Ellis has participated in many slaughters. Even though he is desensitized to the animal pain, he will NOT attend a kosher slaughter, it is too gruesome even for him! He said he does not like the suffering, but "we have to be sensitive to culture." Dr. Ellis believes that it is good to share the killing process with the children, to "let them understand the reality."

HPI only fills 1/2 of requests that come in. How it works:

Community decides they want project. (May have heard of from Peace Corp volunteer, etc.; HPI does not advertise to start projects in a country.) To be approved, community must put together a committee to learn how to feed and care for and house the animals. (If an animal dies, their job is to find out why. Then they get another animal.) Gender-sensitive, must be women on committee. Often it is the women who do the work in some societies. Families are asked to pass on first-born female to the Project. Males are killed for meat. Community slaughterhouse. Realities of agriculture. Dr. Ellis didn’t know how most of the animals were slaughtered. [But he has been to many slaughters.]

For cattle, goats and sheep, HPI insists on "zero grazing pens." Stall to eat and pen to graze. If give fee range, get shot and in neighbors garden, etc.

Ticks are a big problem, so don’t allow long grass.

Milk is not the most important commodity. Manure is. Urine is also composted for banana blight [collection of urine involves unnatural apparatuses and encourages water deprivation—like Premarin mares!]

An acre of grass per animal. Some community pens.

It costs about $200 to build a zero grazing pen (a year’s income). Where do they get the money? Some get "micro credit", e.g., in Uganda, have YWCA loans, etc.

It is typically 9 months to one year before the first animal comes.

A lot of the breeding is by AI [electro-ejaculation is painful—he did not say how sperm is collected]

Farm Animal Reform Movement

Lucy 1/10/00

Opposes HPI. Not necessary for nutrition. None of the developing countries have animal protection laws (or people protection either). No enforcement in countries that do have laws.

Humane Farming Association

Brad Miller, founder, veterinarian

Doesn’t support HPI, not most efficient way to feed people, no transportation regulations

Animal agriculture often is the cause of hunger

Receives a lot of complaints

Sends off to four corners of world with no guarantee of humane treatment

Wishful thinking, that milk is adequate

No documented cases of abuse

Unnecessary to deal with live animals

Supports UNICEF and OXFAM hunger programs

With OXFAM can specify where gift goes (have some animal programs)

Humane Society of US

Gary Valen, Director of Sustainable Agriculture, HSUS

HSUS won’t take stand. HSUS position is that if you raise an animal, you should do it as humanely as possible. HSUS supports small family farms as opposed to factory farms. But does not have a lot of contact with HPI. Feels that they are good people, positive project over the years, provide training where animals are placed. Went to inspect HPI ranch in Arkansas 10 years ago. All looked okay to him except some animals were in cages. Spoke to manager and he agreed to fix. Has not been back. Was alarmed at wording in brochure and plans to go back and investigate.

PETA

Cem Akin: 1/13/00 and 2/11/00

Opposes HPI. If poor families have a hard time providing for themselves, how can they provide for their animal? [this is a weak argument, I think]

Animal agriculture in general abuses animals and makes money.

As an alternative, suggested Food For Life (www.ffl.org), or

Vegetarian Relief Group

Factory Farming Concerns Trust

Steve Roach

FACT is helping HPI on a project in Chicago area. (FACT works with small farms in US if raised humanely) Unclear on international programs. Not a good idea to ship. Not addressing the issue. Some issues not addressed with shipping. Robert Brown, founder of FACT, doesn’t feel shipping animals is good.

Rich Groot (Resurrection UMC Council Chairperson)

His brother raises dairy goats and sells some to HPI.

HPI can’t insure vet care. So few people in the field; deliver and give information and get out.. No follow-up. In past, coaches served as advisors; not now, because don’t have people.

Comments on goat farming in general:

Goat farmers really don’t want animals slaughtered and eaten. Want new herds when old and production drops. Brother’s left-over goat kids sold to be eaten at Easter. Farm animals exist to be of use to farmer and when an animal ceases to be of use, is eaten. But Rich opposes some groups that provide seeds to hungry, because they rely on chemical pesticides, etc. because soil is so poor from overuse, can’t do organically.

Animal Protection Institute

Alan Berger, Exec. Director

Had not heard of HPI. Said transportation of animals in India is horrible, pile cows on top of each other in pick-ups. Cows in India starving. Malnutrition problem for animals. Suffering in raising.

FFECP

Ellen Bring

Deceptive and fraudulent. Catalogue snookers people into thinking cuddly. Don’t show slaughter, transportation, lack of vet care. Whole purpose is to kill. 3/4 of earth’s population is lactose intolerant. Most in developing countries (lower in Caucasians)

Here are quotes from a brochure she sent me (HPI sent me a different one):

"The young boy knew he had to help the nanny. If she died, his family would be set back dramatically."

"HPI animals are living savings accounts…the pig is the most interest-bearing."

"Using resources once considered worthless [referring to the garbage fed animals], impoverished families worldwide supply themselves with protein and income they need to improve their lives."

"Pigs need little land and can eat crop and garden scraps….can provide a family with up to 16 piglets a year."

"…sheep can graze the hilliest, rockiest pastures unsuitable for other livestock."

"A trio of HPI rabbits is a low cost, high-yield gift…"

"…chickens require little space and can live on readily available food scraps."

"…Beehives require almost no space and, once established, are inexpensive to maintain. After all, bees don’t have to be fed." [This is ridiculous, any animal will die if not fed. Just because the "food" may grow wild, does not mean you don’t have to plan an environment appropriate for their nutrition.]

"When resources are scarce, it is important that livestock don’t use up land reserved for people. At home in rough, mountainous areas, llamas are a blessing to families with limited pasture land." [better to grow crops on the limited pasture land—can import manure and organic fertilizers rather than live animals]

"llamas …require little care; they can live five days without food or water…"

Reasons for opposition

Misinformation being given on phone by customer service. A lot of PR. Won’t answer questions directly. Some of the information was inaccurate when compared to Dr. Ellis’s account.

No provision for real veterinary care after initial training

Emphasis on what poor quality food and small land space can be used to produce income for family. But investment in grazing pen is about one year’s income! If they can save a year’s income, they must not be nearly starving. Money could be better used for sustainable non-animal agriculture.

Animals valued only for what they can produce. No value in and of themselves.

Not a partnership. More exploitation.

Animals are killed for meat either by design or when usefulness to humans is over.

Killing is sometimes torturous, as in kosher rituals. Although this would happen even without HPI animals, by supporting HPI, we are increasing the number of animals who suffer.

High overhead compared to other charities (25%)

Although the families may "value" their animal for what she can produce, their desire to keep the animal alive and productive does not mean they keep the animal comfortable or meet her natural instincts and needs (This has been proven dramatically in American factory farms: high production does not equal animal health and happiness!)

Children are taught to be insensitive to animal killing.

Not good for animals. Not good for people. Incompatible with Christian teaching.

Whole emphasis is on how much money people can make from so little care (poor ground, little feed and water). Animals are used for profit without regard to their needs, life, spirit, purpose.

Stewardship

Although say need healthy animals and start out healthy, there is not long-term follow-up for original animal or offspring. HPI has abandoned over 50% of the countries in which it has started projects.

Supports killing. Some animals are for eating only.

Wish to do no harm, by not participating in suffering through meals and gifts

[Comments not allowed, but available in back pocket: Over 3/4 of world’s people (higher in developing nations) can’t digest lactose (need a reference). So why are we sending them dairy animals? Dairy products can kill a dehydrated child by causing or worsening diarrhea! Milk allergies, diabetes, osteoporosis, middle ear infections, colic, diarrhea. Meat: cancer, CV disease, etc. Teaching the poor to live like we do—unhealthy]

A. Harm to Animals

1. Attitude

2. Shipping Conditions

3. Care

4. Slaughter

B. Harm to humans

C. Financial considerations

D. Consideration of information in light of teachings of Christ

E. Suggested alternatives

The calf photo on these pages is from Farm Sanctuary with our thanks.

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