Heifer Project International - Inhumanity in the Name of Humanity
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Heifer Project International - Inhumanity in the Name of Humanity
Comments by: Evelyn Elkin Giefer - 24 Oct 2003

Dear Sue, Dena, Deanna, Steve and others,

I also received my Heifer Project catalog this week. I have composed a response to Eli West's letter in support of HPI at the Episcoveg address that Sue provided. Unfortunately, my response could not be posted due to the following error: "can't evaluate the expression because the name 'referer' hasn't been defined." Maybe it's my browser. Can you help me, Sue?


Here is my response.

Dear Eli,

I am sorry if the FFECP (Factory Farming Economic Conversion Project) position statement on HPI offended you. I did not write it, but as a member of the FFECP, I submitted it to the All-creatures website, even though I had some hesitancy about its somewhat hostile tone. Prior to that time, I had spent many hours studying the project and talking to various representatives and employees to find out more about its mission and the way in which it was carried out. I am convinced that the people who started the project and those who work for it have nothing but good intentions.

My objection to HPI is based on its use of animals as a means to an end.

Although fighting poverty and starvation is a noble ideal, I do not feel that it justifies the exploitation of animals. Jews and Christians believe that God created animals and gave them the same breath as humans (nefesh chaya = living soul ); they are living souls loved and cherished by their creator. Although humans have fallen from the paradise that God intended for all his creatures, and the peaceable kingdom is not yet a reality on this earth, I believe that we have a responsibility to live as non-violently as possible in order to bring peace to our world. In a non-speciesist world, violence and neglect of one species is not justified even if it helps another.

Although small family farms certainly have the potential to cause less suffering than factory farms, I don't believe that the standards of HPI are high enough to prevent suffering in many instances. The "zero grazing pens" for sheep and goats make for cramped living space for the animals and increase the likelihood of diseases and parasites. Many of the male animals (chickens, dairy cattle) and most of the rabbits and pigs are killed for their meat and not raised to live a normal life as God intended. Some of the killing methods are quite inhumane, but HPI does not require humane slaughter, out of respect for local cultures.

Children are encouraged to attend the killings.

It is my understanding that follow-up veterinary care is almost never provided by HPI, and local lay persons are entrusted with diagnosing and treating sick animals, but only to prevent economic loss to people, not for the animals' sakes. The priority of economic profit over animal welfare is evident in the HPI brochures (e.g., "HPI animals are living savings accounts.the pig is the most interest-bearing." "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 do not have to be fed." "Llamas. require little care; they can live five days without food or water.") Once a community has been given animals and training by HPI, they are free to sell the offspring to others without necessarily providing training in their care to the new owners.

There are no regulations for the humane shipping of animals, and animal transport is notoriously cruel in third-world countries.

Both FARM (Farm Animal Reform Movement) and HFA (Humane Farming Association) oppose HPI.

Animal agriculture does not make sense for people either. Animal agriculture wastes protein, water, land and energy, and meat- and dairy-based diets are linked to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. I believe that there are better ways to feed the hungry and raise their standard of living than through animal agriculture.

I also believe that HPI is misleading the public to believe that the animals are being cherished and loved, as evidenced by the joyful faces of the children, shown hugging and loving baby animals in HPI brochures and catalogs. Children are innately drawn to animals and usually feel a sense of awe and kinship with God's creatures. How do these children feel later, after months of care and attachment, when they have to participate in killing them? How is their horror and fear addressed by HPI? What are the children learning from the experience, except that animals are here for our use and exploitation and have no rights and interests of their own?

I believe, with Albert Schweitzer, that "Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace." HPI is not helping to extend the circle. I realize that these are difficult issues, balancing the needs of people with the needs of animals, but we must find a better way and, as Schweitzer said, ".... think out in every implication the ethic of love for all creation...."


Evelyn Elkin Giefer

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