The Heifer Project
A Bad Approach to Solving World Hunger Problems

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The Heifer Project

Heifer Project International
by Evelyn Giefer, Winter 2000 - submitted 4 Oct 2000

I. Summary of reasons for opposition

Wish to do no harm, by not participating in suffering through gifts to charity.

A. Harm to Animals

1. Attitude:

Animals as tools, used for profit without regard to their needs, life, spirit, purpose. No value in and of themselves. Not a partnership. More exploitation.

HPI brochure quotes

Pictures in brochure

HSUS alarmed

Rich Groot: Farm animals exist to be of use to farmer and when an animal ceases to be of use, it is eaten.

2. Shipping Conditions: No regulations for care and welfare of animals during shipping from US or foreign countries.

HPI: 1-5% shipped from US, not optimal to change climates from where raised. Shipment between and within foreign countries. No regulations on shipping conditions (food, water, space, temperature).

[Just because they arrive alive, is no guarantee that they didn’t suffer]

FARM, HFA, FFECP, FACT, API, all raised this issue as a reason for opposition.

3. Care:

No long-term follow-up to ensure adequate care

Dr. Roger Ellis, veterinarian, HPI Board of Directors:

HPI provides 22 species of animals. Current presence in 35-40 countries of 110 where a project has been started, 17 of 35 US states; no guarantee that people passing animals on will also pass on the training.

Lack of trained veterinarians, shortage of drugs and supplies

Dr. Ellis, HPI:

Have only two veterinarians employed by HPI in US. Knows of only two others: one in Uganda, another is the Project Coordinator in Asia. Some volunteers. 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. Mastitis strip course. [mastitis is associated with over-milking]

Rich Groot (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 enough people.

Grazing pens that facilitate manure collection suboptimal for health.

Dr. Ellis: Sheep and goats are raised in "zero grazing pens": cost $200 per family (about a year’s income). This is an intensive (small) pen aimed at facilitating manure collection. (Manure is collected for fertilizing gardens.) [Animals are more susceptible to parasites and contagious diseases in overcrowded pens.] Ticks are a big problem, so don’t allow long grass.

Dr. Ellis: To be approved, community must put together a committee to learn how to feed and care for and house the animals. It is typically 9 months to one year before the first animal comes. If an animal dies, their job is to find out why. Then they get another animal. Families are asked to pass on first-born female to the Project. Males are killed for meat.

Collection of urine and AI suspect for causing suffering

Dr. Ellis: Urine is also composted for banana blight [No information was given bout method of collection of urine, but historically urine collection involves confinement and unnatural apparatuses and encourages water deprivation to concentrate urine—e.g., Premarin mares]

A lot of the breeding is by AI [No information was given about how semen is collected, but historically, in the US and developed countries, painful electro-ejaculation is used]

[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 and profit does not equal animal health and happiness.]

4. Slaughter

Children are taught to be insensitive to killing

Dr. Ellis, HPI: 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 believes that it is good to share the killing process with the children, to "let them understand the reality."

Kosher kills

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."

Most methods unknown, no guarantee of humane treatment, even in non-kosher kills

Doesn’t know how the majority of HPI animals are slaughtered.

B. Harm to humans

Dairy intolerance

FFECP: large percent of world’s people cannot digest lactose [PCRM figures: 2/3 of non-Caucasians and 5-15% of Caucasians]

HFA: wishful thinking that milk is adequate

Diet-related diseases – deferred to another time

[see literature: DM, SIDS, CV, ear infections, osteoporosis, cancer, etc.]

HFA: not most efficient way to feed people, animal agriculture is often the cause of hunger

[heading third world towards over-dependence on meat and dairy, like Americans]

Fosters insensitivity to animals

Money could be better used for sustainable non-animal agriculture (raised beds, etc.)

C. Financial considerations

High overhead compared to other charities: 25%

II. Consideration of information in light of Biblical teachings

Humans and animals created as vegetarians

Humans, made in God’s image, were made stewards of creation

Christ (the human image of God) was servant of all, so in His image we should serve all of creation

God’s covenant with animals and Noah

Peaceable Kingdom

New testament themes:

Christ’s concern for animals (sparrows, birds of the air, good shepherd, lost sheep, mother hen, anger at selling doves in the temple)

Love your neighbor, least of these

All of creation groans with humans awaiting redemption

Connection of all of creation

Abbreviations

API Animal Protection Institute

FACT Farm Animal Concerns Trust

FARM Farm Animal Reform Movement

FFECP Factory Farming Economic Conversion Project

HFA Humane Farming Association

HPI Heifer Project International

HSUS Humane Society of the United States

Summary of phone conversations and literature about HPI

Information gathered by Evelyn Giefer, Winter 2000

Conversations with Heifer Project International

Customer service representatives (I talked to three customer service representatives at different times) were not very knowledgeable about animal shipment, care, slaughter or where US farms are located. Information given by different reps on phone contradicted each other and information given by board of directors veterinarian.

No regulations for care and welfare of animals shipped. No one I talked to at HPI could say how the majority of first generation animals are shipped. HPI Regulations include 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, temperature, etc Shipping conditions within and between third world countries are notoriously poor.]

Wouldn’t answer questions directly. When asked if animals were ever slaughtered, a representative said she was not really sure, said goal is to live as long a life as possible. [not true in case of male dairy animals, male laying chickens, rabbits, pigs, etc.]

Roger Ellis, veterinarian, on 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, current animal welfare unknown 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 between foreign countries. Taking animals from temperate US to foreign countries is not optimal. 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. 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. Mastitis strip course. [mastitis is associated with over-milking]

To be approved, community must put together a committee to learn how to feed and care for and house the animals. It is typically 9 months to one year before the first animal comes. If an animal dies, their job is to find out why. Then they get another animal. Families are asked to pass on first-born female to the Project. Males are killed for meat.

Sheep and goats are raised in "zero grazing pens": cost $200 per family (about a year’s income). This is an intensive (small) pen aimed at facilitating manure collection. [Animals are more susceptible to parasites in overcrowded pens.] Ticks are a big problem, so don’t allow long grass.

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." Doesn’t know how most of the animals were slaughtered.

Manure is collected for fertilizing gardens. Urine is also composted for banana blight [No information was given bout method of collection of urine, but historically urine collection involves confinement and unnatural apparatuses and encourages water deprivation to concentrate urine—e.g., Premarin mares]

A lot of the breeding is by AI [No information was given about how semen is collected, but historically, in the US and developed countries, painful electro-ejaculation is used]

 From HPI Brochure:

[Animals are seen as things, tools, to increase standard of living for poor (not starving)]

"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." [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.]

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

[Brochures picture children hugging baby animals. Notice their faces, how elated they are to be in the presence of an animal. Recall your childhood experiences with animals. Did you feel a sense of awe of God’s creatures? A kinship? Most children do. I did, in a big way. I was fascinated by animals and wanted to be in their presence always, to talk to them and feel what they felt. How will these children feel later when they have to participate in their slaughter?]

Conversations with Humane Groups

Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM)

Lucy Goodwin

FARM 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 (HFA)

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

HPI sends animals around the world with no guarantee of humane treatment

Wishful thinking, that milk is adequate

No documented cases of abuse

Unnecessary to deal with live animals

The Humane Society of the US (HSUS)

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.

Farm Animal Concerns Trust (FACT)

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. Some issues not addressed with shipping. Robert Brown, founder of FACT, doesn’t feel shipping animals is good.

Animal Protection Institute (API)

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.

Factory Farming Economic Conversion Project (FFECP)

Ellen Bring, President

Opposes HPI due to slaughter, transportation, lack of vet care. Milk not nutritious, 75% of earth’s people are lactose intolerant. Most in developing countries (lower in Caucasians)

 Conversation with 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 enough people.

Comments on goat farming in general:

Goat farmers really don’t want animals slaughtered and eaten. But 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, she 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.

Suggested Alternatives

From United Methodist Foundation

Charity % overhead

Stop Hunger Now 4%

(Worldwide, emergency food aid, food for work,

seeds for planting, medical supplies, low-interest

loans, grants)

AGAPE (NC Conference supported)

(Armenia, food, medicines, school supplies,

construction of schools, hospitals, orphanages)

Society of St. Andrews (US) 15%

(salvaging food)

Andean Rural Health Care 17%

(Bolivia, health care)

Others

Charity % overhead

World Food Program (UN) 9%

(worldwide, emergency and chronic hunger,

food for work, self-reliance programs)

Food for Life 15%

(worldwide; food relief including war zones and places even Red Cross won’t go; vegetarian; Hare Krishna)

THE FACTORY FARMING ECONOMIC CONVERSION PROJECT
P.O. Box 51412
Durham, NC 27717
919-403-0748

The photos on these page is from Farm Sanctuary and PETA with our thanks.

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