The Heifer Project
A Bad Approach to Solving World Hunger Problems

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The Heifer Project

Reasons to support organizations other than the Heifer Project International
by Stephen Betzen

1. Of the money spent by Heifer Project International in 2004 (most recent available (MRA)) only 71.7% went to program services for an overhead of 28.3%, an extremely excessive overhead (per their 990 filings with the IRS (program services/total expenses)). The Heifer International Foundation (manages and disperses the endowment for the organization) (per 990 filings 2004,MRA ) has a whopping 73.6% overhead. Compare this with:

a) CARE (a similar type organization that is secular and has a more holistic approach) with overhead at 7.9% (according to their 2004 990 filing MRA)

b) Action Against Hunger 11.1% overhead (according to their 2003 990 filing, MRA).

c) Save the Children 10.4% overhead (according to their 2004 990 filing, MRA)

d) Plenty International (organic plant agriculture based aid since 1974) 11.1% overhead (according to their 2004 990 filing, MRA).

2. Heifer Project International works on the premise that animal based agriculture is a solution to the world's hunger problem. The over consumption of meat is one of the primary reasons for hunger in this world. In the US, 75% of the farm land is used to feed animals for human consumption, and 50% of the farm land world wide is used for this. Ghandi said that if we try to feed the poor the way the rich eat this world will not sustain us all. This is a pro-west solution for a worldwide problem. Animals, at best, give a return of only 10% of the food they are provided, food that could be used to feed people and land that could be used to grow more nutritious food for people.

3. Last year this congregation recognized the need for fresh water in this world. According to the cattleman's beef association (industry propaganda) for every pound of meat we eat it takes 400 gallons of water (most scientists say it is actually around 2500 gallons per pound). In fact, if US citizens adjusted their current diet to reflect the American diet in the 1950's we would save over 7,000,000,000,000 (7 trillion) gallons of water each year (based on the cattleman association's low number) (and a lot of food too). By providing these animals we deplete their community's water resources even more.

4. The summary of #2 and #3 is that providing resource poor people with a resource intensive animal is a negative equation for their community. Working to end world hunger is commendable, but exploiting animal life to do it could actually worsen global famine trends. Whereas many vegans adopt a plant-based lifestyle because of concerns for world hunger, animal-based agriculture contributes to global hunger, because it uses up half the world's grain for a fraction of the food value.

5. According to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine 66% of non-Caucasians and 5-15% of Caucasians can not digest lactose. It is wishful thinking that milk is adequate... again a western belief.

6. Heifer International supported the publication of a controversial report based on an experiment encompassing a group of Kenyan schoolchildren. They have used this to push forward the assertion that some nutrients could only be obtained from animal sources. The study was scientifically flawed. The British Dietetic Association said the study used meat and milk to supplement the diet of impoverished, rural children with a poor background and a diet low in essential nutrients such as zinc, B12 and iron ó in short, children whose health would have improved with practically any intervention. There was no control group in the study.

7. False endorsements: The Boston Globe and The Rocky Mountain News were questioned about their endorsements of HPI. Both newspapers deny that they have ever endorsed HPI. HPI may have used isolated statements from articles the newspapers did on HPI (several years ago), quoted and showcased them in its catalog to make it look like the newspapers support of their work. Apparently, HPI did not have the papers' permission to use the info in this way.

8. Animal rights: HPI uses cute pictures of animals... and baby animals to raise money for it's efforts. These animals no doubt have horrendous lives many of which will be inhumanely slaughtered for their meat. 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. HPI canít insure vet care. I doubt as many children would support these efforts in their schools if they knew that those cute rabbits were being breed in factory-like conditions only to be killed.

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

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