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On Heifer Int’l and People Who Aren’t Thinking

You may find this hard to believe, but someone bought my mother a llama for a family in Bolivia for Christmas through Heifer International. That’s not the unbelievable part. The utterly-unfathomable part is that she told me about it. I immediately, said, "I’m sorry; some people just aren’t thinking," to which she replied, "What are you talking about? I thought it was a lovely idea!" 

I didn’t think I’d actually have to do this, but . . .

Let’s deconstruct:

  • Heifer International is in the business, directly and not, of breeding animals for human use and consumption. It encourages animal-based diets and agriculture.
  • We should be encouraging plant-based agriculture and teaching people how to grow food, not how to subjugate, exploit, and kill animals.
  • The animals must be shipped to their destinations, and I would bet my net worth that many don’t arrive alive, don’t arrive at all because some warlord at some checkpoint absconded with them, or arrive ill. And where, pray tell, is the town veterinarian? Is there one? If there isn’t Heifer will train local people as "para-vets." Maybe I’ll become a para-vet and dole out veterinary care in my neighborhood. Let’s see how well that goes over with the moms and dad of the pampered pooches and kitties of suburban Palm Beach County.
  • The catalogue and website bring to your attention the kinds of terrible conditions many animals can exist in. They practically tell you that it’s okay if they’re not comfortable.
  • My mother’s llama will give milk to children, she says. I’d like to see that–the llama giving milk to the children. Are they sucking on the llama’s nipple? Maybe. But no matter how the kids get the milk, it is taken, not given. And what do you think happens when she isn’t producing any more milk? She gets retired to a local sanctuary to live out her life in peace, right?
  • If we are trying to be environmentally responsible, we wouldn’t ship animals that weigh hundreds of pounds around the world.

All of the warm and fuzzy photos with children and animals belie the exploitation and abuse of the animals that is intrinsic to the program. Here are the two lines that say it all:

It’s the sustainable use and management of natural resources, accomplished by using social, cultural, economic, political and ecological methods that work together to achieve sustainable agriculture production.

That means everything is working together to help save the environment – a healing touch for our planet that helps reduce our environmental footprint, the impact each one of us makes.

No, it doesn’t mean that everything is working together. It means that people are doing what is in their best interests in a way that makes them feel better. The animals aren’t "working together" with us. They are created, shipped, and unloaded, to spend their lives in servitude and ultimately be slaughtered. And, as we all have been told many times, the best way to reduce your environmental footprint is to adopt a plant-based diet. Period. It’s an insult to my intelligence to call this program "healing."

Heifer Int’l in no way reduces my environmental footprint. In fact, it makes it larger because the animals take resources to breed and raise, and then much more energy to ship to their destinations (and then yet more to keep alive so they can continue to do their jobs). Teaching the people organic, sustainable farming of indigenous foods would reduce our environmental impact, and theirs, as well as end their hunger. And it would help spread the most important ecological ethic: that animals aren’t ours. And as far as poverty is concerned, microloans are probably the most effective, powerful vehicle. Look into microenterprise if you want to end poverty.

Happy Holidays.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Anonymous #

    Bottom Line…While many millions die of hunger annually and many more suffer malnutrition, worldwide one-third of all grain is fed to animals being raised for slaughter; in the U.S., the proportion is nearly three-fourths. Converting grains to meat wastes about 90% of grains' proteins, 96% of their calories, and 100% of their carbohydrates and fiber (Keith Akers, A Vegetarian Sourcebook).

    It is ironic that vegetarians, who are often accused of caring more about animals than humans, encourage a diet that helps feed humans, not animals.

    The above information came from

    Its a Christian website. Most Christians seem to pick and choose which commandments they want to follow and still think they can call themselves Christians. I don't think its suppose to work that way. What part of Thou Shall Not Kill is confusing to them or are they absolved of that one because they let someone else do their killing for them. I guess its no surprise that I have no religion because I don't like to surround myself with hypocrites. Well Merry Christmas…

    Laura Lee

    December 21, 2006
  2. Well said!
    My brother and sister in law donated money to Mennnoites Central Committe through Ten Thousand Villages to buy an animal for those living in third world countries. I emailed Ten Thousand Villages about this, saying it would be better to give them arable land, if it was available to grow grains and vegetables, more efficient and less waste.

    December 31, 2006

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