Heifer Project International - Inhumanity in the Name of Humanity
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Heifer Project International - Inhumanity in the Name of Humanity
Comments by: Barrett Rogers - 5 Jun 2006

I had a few questions and comments I wondered about while looking through your site. I personally approve of Heifer Project and think they are working for an admirable goal in a realistic manner. However, I also understand and agree with some of your concerns as to the use of animals in Heifer's mission. I am not acquainted with the date on the sustainablity/effectiveness of a mixed animal/plant versus a strictly plant diet and all the issues that go into achieving those diets, but I have no problem believing that raising animals is less sustainable and inefficient compared to strictly raising plants.

The concern I have is whether pushing for a strictly vegetarian regime is a realistic way to combat the hunger and poverty that people face right now. By focusing on plants only, you have to fight against the meat culture that exists all over the world, and often especially in the countries at the forefront of the battle against hunger and poverty, where cattle is often seen as a status symbol. Organizations such as HIPPO are doing an admirable job in promoting vegetarian ideals, but in the meantime is there not a place to work within the predominant culture to help people now? Heifer gives people something they understand and that they know how to use/benefit from (as well as providing training in effective, humane uses), while it would seem that HIPPO must familiarize people with the idea of a vegetarian society and teach to work with plants that they often have no experience with.

Another issue I had was the over-simplified portrayal of Heifer as an organization that simply gives out animals to be eaten. Heifer's goals are aimed at reducing hunger AND poverty, and doing so in an environmentally conscious way. Most of Heifer's animal gifts are aimed at both reducing hunger and poverty. Cattle can be eaten and sold, but they also produce milk for consumption and sale, as well as serving as working animals to increase crop yields/reduce the amount of work that must be done manually. Chicken and ducks can be sold or eaten, and they also produce eggs for the same purpose. Heifer gives bees to produce honey and sheep and llamas that are used for their wool. It is my understanding that profiting from the production of plants is a difficult process, largely beyond the reach of small-scale subsistence farmers, unlike animals.

Finally, Heifer is not an animal only organization. They have developed an agroecology program to promote better farming practices. Donations can be made that are solely designated for trees to be used in reforestation and farming in the same way that donations can be made for cows, ducks, or sheep. They have developed initiatives to promote water resource management, encourage the use of gardens in urban centers, and educate local farmers in how to maximize yields while farming in a sustainable manner.

Heifer seems to me to be a more balanced and thoughtful program than it is being given credit for here.

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