Heifer Project International - Inhumanity in the Name of Humanity
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Heifer Project International - Inhumanity in the Name of Humanity
Comments by: Kay Bush - 28 Oct 2003

Dear CVA listers,

While the discussion among CVA listers about the Heifer Project has been taking place I received from a local nonprofit the following announcement (view at the end of this message.)

My observation of Heifer project is that it is very clever in the way it sells its misguided program to kind-hearted people (in churches, schools, etc.) who are motivated to share and help the hungry of this world. The people who support Heifer Project typically have genuine compassion for the poor and hungry.

The pictures of children holding the animals they donate or receive are carefully designed to tug at the heartstrings of potential supporters. I have noticed that the Heifer Project is being marketed much more aggressively now than in past years.

There was even a piece in E Magazine (May/June 1999) on the Heifer Project. We are likely to see and hear much more about this misguided program.

Once when I wrote to a church that participated in Heifer Project I received a reply from one of the officials of Heifer who was, as I recall, a retired Methodist minister. His claim, and the claim of those who support Heifer Project, is that animals can be raised where the soil cannot support plant agriculture. (Does he forget that animals need plants to eat?) Church missionaries can be found serving as directors of Heifer Project in other countries.

The challenge is to help church groups and others realize that their efforts may be doing more harm than good, ultimately adding more difficulties to the lives of the hungry because animal agriculture is not sustainable in an increasingly populated world. In the developing world, where most of the hungry reside, there can be direct competition between agricultural resources used to feed livestock and the resources available to feed people. Production of cattle fodder and other animal feeds use vast amounts of water, land, & grain, and the animals devour resources that could otherwise feed people. In articles I have collected about Heifer Project recipients of Heifer-donated livestock state that being able to feed the animals is a constant challenge to them.

In many parts of the developing world owning cattle is a traditional status symbol. Giving the poor of the world "capital assets" in the form of animals bolsters the status of their owners. Heifer supporters might ask themselves if this is one of their goals.

Encouraging cultivation of nutritious plant foods that can be grown in poor soils for people to eat directly is an alternative to promoting wasteful animal agriculture through programs such as the Heifer Project. I would guess that most places to which animals are sent by Heifer Project are suitable for cultivation of some kind of edible, nourishing plant crops. I am not a spokesperson for PLENTY www.plenty.org . However, I know that it helps indigenous communities to establish soybean cooperatives and grow plant crops so the people can feed themselves and market their surplus to others. PLENTY searches for plant crops that will grow successfully in various kinds of soils and conditions. However, PLENTY is a small organization and doesn't have the publicity to compete with the Heifer Project's PR machine. Maybe some listers know of other vegetarian aid organizations.


Here is the notice I just received:

Dear Friends,

Have you ever considered giving someone a heifer as a holiday gift ?

Come to an Open House for Heifer International on Saturday, November 15, 5:30 to 9 pm and learn about a new way to honor your family and friends while giving a gift that builds international understanding.

Held at the Foundation for Global Community, 222 High Street, Palo Alto, the event will highlight the work of Heifer International work during the past 60 years to provide culturally appropriate farm animals and training to over 4 million families in 128 countries.

Admission is 25 cents - add your quarter to the "Peace Pipe" to help buy an animal!  Light refreshments will be served during the open house starting at 5:30 pm, followed by a talk at 7:30 pm by Gerald Katusabe, Heifer International's Rwanda Country Director who has recently arrived from visiting Heifer's programs in Africa.

Teachers, youth group leaders, church and community group members can talk with Heifer representatives about how to engage their class or organization in providing livestock animals such as goats, rabbits, sheep, heifers, ducks, geese - even trees - to needy families throughout the world.

Some Heifer programs, such as "Read to Feed" and "Animal Crackers" are specifically tailored for use in classrooms or other youth group programs.

Other community groups may want to raise enough money to provide an "Ark" of 15 pairs of animals that will serve 30 families in one village.  In addition, Heifer's tradition of "passing the gift," means that families who receive an animal agree to repay the favor by passing on one or more of the animal's female offspring to other families in need.

The program will also include videos about Heifer's work both abroad and in poor rural communities here in the U.S.

Return to Heifer Project International - Inhumanity in the Name of Humanity
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