What's your opinion on the heifer project in which those liven in poverty are given animals (ie cow or chicken) through the donations of others? My grandma buys a cow for my family to donate every year but it feels wrong to me. I'm a vegetarian (not a vegan) and I'm not sure if I believe poverty excuses cruelty. Then again, these animals might endure a lot less abuse in the hands of a family vs. those of a corporation. Thoughts?
Right, a great question anon, and while I will get hate for this, I hope you can at least appreciate my honesty. I find the Heifer Project problematic for two reasons.
Firstly, I believe it does a disservice to those people it professes to help. The usefulness of a cow is based on very Western ideas; lets not forget that 2/3 on non-westerners in the world are dairy intolerant, including many of the regions Heifer Project operate in. The Heifer project has spent massive sums of money on a dairy project in Zimbabwe, when the vast majority of the population do not eat it, never have, and only will do so now because they are being given no other choice. They did not develop the tolerance for dairy we (sort of) have because it has never been a widespread part of their culture. The last thing a hungry child in Africa needs is the milk of a cow. We are exporting not only our cultural ideas about dairy consumption, but also preventable diseases associated with its intake. Feeding a cow is expensive and inefficient; just keeping that cow alive will cost more crops than it would to feed their family. Both cows and chickens produce less calories than they take in; both in dairy production and in meat production.
Secondly, the Heifer Project is of course based on a speciesist paradigm. It is using and exploiting animals to help humans, with no regard for the rights of the animal in question. Their lovely leaflet of animals you can send makes us forget that this is the practice of live exporting of living beings, who will be exploited and killed. I realise a lot of soil isn’t capable of supporting crops in parts of Africa, but the Heifer Project operates in these parts for that reason. If the animals do not have fertile grazing land, they have to be fed grain, which again must be provided externally. We could simply spend that money on crops for humans to eat, rather than buying grain to use as animal feed.
Now listen up, anons, before you hit that ask button, I am not saying we should just say fuck them and not help. I am saying that if we can help people, without hurting or exploiting anyone, why don’t we do that instead? The biggest feed the hungry organisation on the planet is vegetarian, Plenty. They are vegetarian simply because they feed ten to thirteen times more people with vegetarian food than they ever could by using animals. Plenty, rather than educating people on how to look after the animals they are sent, instead educate impoverished villagers to produce soy for human consumption, as once again, it is much more efficient, less costly and more sustainable than a living cow. Trees for Life let you buy a fruit tree for developing communities that will provide significantly more sustenance per head than a cow. These kinds of sustainable community projects are not only better for the animals and the planet, they are better for the people we are supposed to be helping.
So in conclusion anon, I think you are right to be wary of any organisation that exports live animals when there are so many more ethical, and more economically viable, community projects that you could support instead. If you wanted to look for a more ethical project to support; the following are fantastic charities aimed at ending poverty, and explicitly do not exploit animals to do it.